Tamale, 7-9 February 2023 - What is the purpose of a prison sentence? According to international standards and norms, such as the Nelson Mandela Rules, it is to protect society against crime and to reduce reoffending through rehabilitation. But how do we achieve these purposes? Where violent extremist prisoners are part of the prison population there is another pressing question: how do we ensure that prisons do not become places of radicalization to violence?
In February 2023 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conducted a three-day introductory training workshop addressing these questions, with 25 selected prison officers from the five northern regions of Ghana taking part. These regions are a priority due to their proximity to the Sahel region and other factors making them susceptible to the threat of violent extremism and terrorism.
The workshop was part of NORPREVSEC, an Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies’ (FIIAPP) project, financed by the European Union, and delivered by UNODC in collaboration with the Counter Terrorism Fusion Center of the Ministry of National Security of Ghana, Interpol and the Ghana Prisons Service.
The training focused on building the capacity of trainees to deliver evidence-based measures to manage violent extremist prisoners and prevent radicalization to violence. Presentations and interactive exercises were delivered by a range of expert trainers from Ghana, Senegal, Spain, and Germany. One key subject covered was the development and implementation of a tailored classification procedure for prisoners, based on individuals’ risks and needs. Trainees were keen to take this forward. Also covered were the topics of prison intelligence; dynamic security; targeted rehabilitation intervention; and compliance with human rights. All are indispensable elements for ensuring safety and security in prisons. Good prison management for all prisoners provides the essential foundation for targeted work to prevent radicalization to violence and reducing re-offending among violent extremist prisoners.
The representatives from the Ghana Prisons Service expressed their gratitude for the successful training and stressed that more capacity building initiatives are desired in the future. It was agreed that work will continue as part of the project ‘Strengthening the compliance of the Ghana Prison Service with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules)’, which is financed by the US Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.