Blogs » Neurognosis » Deradicalization in the World's Prisons


A comprehensive joint British and U.S. report has detailed research addressing de-radicalization in prisons. An investigation of many programs in 15 different countries has led to some suprising and unsurprising findings.

Prisons are so-called breeding grounds for the recruitment of new individuals into radical movmements. According to the study, prisons "provide near-perfect conditions in which radical, religiously framed ideologies can flourish". Furthermore the report states:

"Prisons are highly unsettling environments in which individuals are more likely than elsewhere to explore new beliefs and associations. Confronted with existential questions and deprived of their existing social networks, prisoners with no previous involvement in politically motivated violence are vulnerable to being radicalised and recruited into terrorism".

Many prevelant conditions in prisons can led to increases in radicalization such as over-crowding and under-staffing - both of which are long running problems in prisons.

However, the report identified some elements which are integral to individiual disengagement and de-radicalization:

• A mix of different kinds of programming, typically combining ideological and/or religious re-education with vocational training.

• Credible interlocutors, who can relate to prisoners’ personal and psychological needs.

• Emphasis on prisoners’ transition back into mainstream society, typically by providing them with the means for a new beginning and by establishing social networks away from extremism.

• Sophisticated methods for locking prisoners into multiple commitments and obligations towards family, community, and the state.

• Material inducements, which – while useful – do not seem to be decisive on their own.

The report also addressed the more complex issue of collective disengagement and de-radicalization which is much more difficult to attain than working on individualized disengagement and de-radicalization.

The study was based out of the University of Maryland by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) in partnership with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

Programs and policies were examined from Afghanistan, France, the Netherlands, Pakistan, the Philippines, Spain, Singapore, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States as well as Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Israel.

The full report examines a myriad of program techniques and issues involved in dealing with radicalization in prisons. However, the over-reaching theme which comes from this report is the acknowledgement that prisons are hotbeds for radical movements' recruiting efforts as well as coordination of outside terrorist efforts. Therefore, assessing and refining operations which seek to curb radicalization in prisons may serve to deal a great blow to organized terrorism and extremist movements.