UNODC Deploys Mentors to Prevent and Combat Violent Extremism in Sri Lankan Prisons

Photo: © UNODC

Colombo (Sri Lanka), April 2020 - From March 2020, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) has deployed two prison experts to support the Sri Lanka Department of Prisons in preventing and countering violent extremism in prisons (P/CVE).

The experts, embedded as full-time mentors for the duration of the project, are currently conducting assessments in several prisons to identify suitable facilities for the implementation of P/CVE activities. In parallel, they will strengthen prison officers’ capacity in dynamic, procedural and physical security, identify needs on security-related equipment in selected prisons, support the design and development of rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, and work closely with prison management staff to implement an optimal classification instrument for high-risk inmates.

As opposed to a top-down training model, UNODC-GMCP uses a mentoring approach for its capacity building initiatives. In addition to delivering basic theoretical and illustrative practical sessions, mentors accompany prison officers during their day-to-day activities in order to observe, evaluate and reinforce what they have been taught. This approach allows for a more sustainable, hands-on learning experience for targeted prison staff, allowing for an increased knowledge of security practices and prisoner treatment techniques in accordance with international human rights standards.

Anders Persson, one of the Prison Security Experts deployed, said that: “Aligning prison officers’ practices with human rights provisions, such as the Nelson Mandela Rules, is fundamental for a successful prison management. This does not only apply to offenders with minor charges, but also prisoners linked to violent extremism. I look forward to working with the Sri Lanka Department of Prisons and I have no doubts that improving the skills and abilities of its staff will have a positive and sustained impact in the overall prison environment”.

UNODC-GMCP has gained valuable experience on P/CVE activities in prisons thanks to the implementation of similar projects in East Africa in the handling and managing of high-risk inmates and violent extremist prisoners (VEPs). Masatomo Yamaguchi, UNODC-GMCP’s Programme Coordinator for the Indian Ocean East Team covering Sri Lanka, said: “We are very proud of encouraging the adoption of good practices in prison settings by taking advantage of successful experiences in other Member States to support the Government of Sri Lanka in improving the capacity of its correctional service. UNODC is committed to contributing to more secure, more humane prison settings to facilitate disengagement, reintegration and rehabilitation of prisoners.”

These activities are possible thanks to the generous support of the European Union in its efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism in the country.

Note: Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, UNODC-GMCP strives to continue delivering planned activities in line with current prevention and mitigation regulations and supporting national counterparts in any way possible. In light of this, UNODC-GMCP mentors are exploring potential ad-hoc initiatives to support the Sri Lanka Department of Prisons in this difficult situation.

Further information

UNODC Global Maritime Crime Programme