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Event Summaries
March 21, 2018

Event Summary: HJS Report Launch – Prison Management of Terrorism-Related Offenders – Is Separation Effective?

Henry Jackson Society

Date: 18:00-19:00, Tuesday 20th March 2018

Location: Committee Room 4, House of Lords, Palace of Westminster, London, SW1A 0PW


Dr Julia Rushchenko
Research Fellow at the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism
The Henry Jackson Society

By kind invitation of the Rt Hon. David Hanson MP, the Henry Jackson Society was pleased to launch our latest report “Prison Management of Terrorism-Related Offenders: Is Separation Effective?” in Parliament. 

Dr Julia Rushchenko opened with her central argument that prisons are “academies of terror”, and that inmates being radicalized in them is one of the most pressing security concerns in the U.K. and Europe. The report highlights that prison and probation are supposed to be partners in de-radicalizing offenders, but instead they become networks to exchange experience and techniques. A prime example of this is Camp Bucca in Iraq which brought radicalized Islamists to former Iraqi military officers.

Dr. Rushchenko outlined a number of pull and push factors that could turn inmates to radicalized ideology. Push factors such as overcrowding and poor prison infrastructure, and pull factors like desires to belong and the need for protection. Furthermore, the increasing trend of shorter sentences is not producing effective results, and at times even creates grievances towards the justice system that radical preachers can seize on to persuading potential recruits.

The Chairman agreed with Dr. Rushchenko that what to do with these offenders is a difficult problem, as their identity is under threat in a prison environment (uniforms, serial numbers), they could be more likely to lean towards manipulative terrorist inmates or charismatic radical preachers. The picture is complicated further as some inmates that could be radicalized are imprisoned for other offences, like domestic violence or theft.

The report argues that separation centers, or ‘terrorist wings’ in prisons are the best way to house the most subversive and actively proselytising inmates. Although separation wings didn’t work so well with the I.R.A., Islamists have different goals and ideology, which mean that separation wings could be suitable when risk assessments are carried out. The risk assessments should take gender and age into account, and the psychological profile, so the prison service and the Home Office know that separation is the best policy.

With this profile information a de-radicalization programme and strategy can be tailored to an individual prisoner, this, Dr. Rushchenko argues is the most effective way of limiting the risk of Islamist terrorism in prisons.