Prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons - Central Asian perspectives on a global threat

Extremist and terrorist groups threaten peace, security and sustainable development. They pose a challenge to human rights and the rule of law and weaken the integrity and sovereignty of States. There is a risk of violent extremist groups converging with organized crime. Extremist recruitment is thought to occur in penitentiary institutions in many countries. In this global context, Central Asian states are stepping up their efforts to combat extremism and terrorism, including in prisons.

To facilitate exchange of experiences and strengthen regional cooperation, on September 14, 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Prison Service under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic recently hosted a two-day Central Asian Conference on the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons in Bishkek.

"Limiting opportunities for recruitment by terrorist groups, including in prisons, is a priority for our Government", - says Taalaibek Zhaparov, the Chairman of Kyrgyzstan's Prison Service. "The number of prisoners convicted for terrorist or extremist related crimes serving their sentence in closed-type prisons has already reached 185 in Kyrgyzstan."

According to Ashita Mittal, UNODC's Regional Representative for Central Asia, "A comprehensive approach to preventing radicalization to violence among prisoners is needed, which addresses poor living conditions in places of detention, ineffective prison management and corruption."

Prison officials, representatives of law enforcement bodies and security services, and civil society stakeholders from the Central Asian countries, reviewed existing systems for risk assessment and classification of violent extremist offenders and exchanged experiences on the implementation of prison-based rehabilitation programmes. UNODC presented its Handbook on the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons. Participants discussed the results of public monitoring, which analyzed the conditions under which violent extremist prisoners are detained in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as a comparative analysis of legislation governing the management of violent extremist offenders in Central Asian countries.

The conference, which was aimed at contributing to the implementation of the UN Secretary-General's Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism in the Central Asia region, was organized within the  2015-2019 UNODC Programme for Central Asia with financial support from the Government of Japan.