4 July 2019 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) together with Belgium, Burkina Faso, Indonesia and Norway co-organized the first ever event in New York to address the prevention of radicalization to violence in prisons.
The high-level dialogue, held on 28 June, featured presentations from the Norwegian Minister of Justice and Public Security, Jøran Kallmyr, Miwa Kato, UNODC Director of Operations, and other distinguished representatives from Member States, UN officials and civil society.
Poor conditions, overcrowding, under-staffing, insufficient prison staff training and a lack of programming all heavily undermine the capacity of prison and correctional administrations to effectively manage violent extremist prisoners. Worse yet, these deficiencies may provide powerful entry points for efforts to radicalize prisoners to violence - facilitated by a general sense of despair and frustration amongst the general prison population.
Throughout the discussion, speakers highlighted the continued relevance of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as "Nelson Mandela Rules", in their efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism in prisons. The "Nelson Mandela Rules", for which UNODC acts as the custodian, provide the universally recognized blueprint for good prison management and the treatment of all prisoners, including violent extremists or those vulnerable to radicalization to violence.
Ms. Kato emphasized that " a prison system which is managed in compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules will serve as an important barrier against violent extremism taking root in prisons and will form the foundation on which specialized interventions can be built". She shared important lessons learned from technical assistance provided on the ground to more than 20 Member States across the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa or Central, South and South-East Asia.
Ms. Kato concluded the event by stressing that " stand-alone interventions for violent extremist prisoners which are implemented in isolation of the broader prison context are unlikely to yield positive and sustainable results. We must not put the cart before the horse by overwhelming prison services with highly sophisticated interventions when basic sound prison management practices are not yet in place