September 16, 2019
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Radicalization & Violent Extremism in Prisons

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UN Commission on Crime Prevention & Criminal Justice

Topic: Radicalization & Violent Extremism in Prisons

Violent extremism by means of radicalization in prisons is an ever-changing and rapidly growing challenge in the world today. Prison radicalization is understood as the process by which incarcerated people develop ideologies and goals. It is important to understand how these two things impact each other and differ; radicalization exists without violent extremism. Radicalization is not inherently violent, so it is important to differentiate between thought and action when discussing how the two relate. Extremism within prison systems has long been a concern of many governments on a domestic scale but, with the increase in international acts of terrorism, has now become a global concern as well. Violent extremism is a growing concern of the United Nations (UN) because it undermines the very purpose of the organization; peace, human rights, security, and sustainable development.

While nations continue to struggle with a response to the global threat of violent extremism by means of radicalization, it is important to understand the issues as they exist today. The problem of violent radicalization exists within prison systems and affects the climate within inmates, but trends are showing that many domestic acts of terrorism are perpetuated by formerly-incarcerated individuals who may have become radicalized while serving their sentence. This idea demonstrates the larger concern that prison systems are not properly equipped to respond to the growing threats of violent extremism within their walls and that there is not adequate support for individuals as they transition from prison back into society.

The mission of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice at this meeting is to find solutions to the rising concern of violent radicalization in prisons. It is apparent that reform is needed, but what reform? Where does reform need to occur and what part does the UN have in it, if any? How does the UN manage violent extremist prisoners? What support can the UN offer prisoners upon their release? Are there ways to prevent the spread of violent radicalization within prison systems, especially to those who are most vulnerable? The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) offers a handbook already with some outlines on managing violent extremist prisoners, but what more can be done to prevent violent radicalization?

Further Reading:

UN Office on Drugs and Crime Handbook on the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Prevention of Radicalization to Violence in Prisons:
https://www.unodc.org/pdf/criminal_justice/Handbook_on_VEPs.pdf

UN Office on Drugs and Crime on Supporting the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners (VEP) and the Prevention of Radicalisation to Violence in Prison:
https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/justice-and-prison-reform/prison-gloz85-vep.html

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