The rehabilitation of violent extremist prisoners
The fundamental purposes of imprisonment are to protect society and prevent reoffending. Yet incarceration alone does not have a reformative effect, instead worsening many of the challenges already faced by individuals who have come into conflict with the law. UNODC provides technical assistance to around 20 Member States to strengthen the capacity of prison services to ensure the secure and safe custody of violent extremist prisoners; prevent radicalization to violence within prisons, and develop prison-based disengagement interventions and post-release support.
When we hear ‘violent extremism and terrorism’, many people will have an instinct toward punishment. But most of those convicted of extremism-related offences will re-enter wider society, and the work to ensure that they do so safely begins in prison. The foundations for this are laid through the rights-respecting and effective management of all prisoners. Experience in many countries shows that standalone interventions for violent extremist prisoners are unlikely to yield positive results. Nevertheless, there are specific steps that prison authorities can take to manage this complex group of prisoners.
This latest transfer of equipment and publications will support the development of the prisoner classification system, facilitate evidence-based policy on preventing violent extremism in prisons and assist the implementation of prison-based rehabilitation programmes for violent extremist prisoners. In addition, the sportswear will support the more comprehensive work to make time spent in prison productive and rehabilitative – a vital part of efforts to divert prisoners from the path towards violent extremism.
The role of UNODC
A highlight of UNODC’s partnership with Tunisian counterparts throughout the national project ‘Tawassol’ and global initiative on managing violent extremist prisoners was the founding of the CRIMINO-TN – the first-ever centre for research on violent extremism in Tunisia. The centre plays a key role in ensuring that prison policy is evidence-based and context-appropriate.
UNODC has also worked closely with the Tunisian prison authorities to provide training around risk and needs assessment of prisoners, using the UNODC Handbook on Classification of Prisoners, the UNODC Handbook on the Management of High-Risk Prisoners and the UNODC Handbook on the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons. Prisoner classification allows prison authorities to match a prisoner’s individual risks and needs to appropriate resources and supervision. A well-designed and managed classification process is a cornerstone of an effective prison system, fundamental to the protection of human rights, the ability to individualize case and sentence planning and ensure the efficient use of limited correctional resources. Assessment of individual prisoners is particularly important, and special considerations must be made, when looking at the risks and needs of prisoners convicted for violent extremist and terrorism-related offences. Find out more in UNODC’s background paper
A transfer of resources might seem like a small moment – but it is an opportunity to consider the wider outcomes of UNODC’s close partnership with Tunisian authorities to implement evidence-based prison and penal reform and the impact this has on safety and security in the country and beyond.
None of this work would be possible without the partnership of the national counterparts of Tunisia in the Ministry of Justice and the General Committee of Prisons and Rehabilitation and the generosity of the donors the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.