Governments have been increasingly focused on developing more effective strategies to reduce the appeal of terrorism and limit the pool of potential recruits. By better understanding the radicalization process and why people become terrorists, and more broadly, the underlying conditions conducive to terrorism, it is possible to formulate the steps to take to counter violent extremist ideologies.
As part of the effort to counter violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations, there is an increasing focus on prisons1 for several reasons. First, absent the appropriate and necessary safeguards, prisons may provide a „safe haven‟ where terrorists can network, compare and exchange tactics, recruit and radicalize new members, and even direct deadly operations outside the prison. Second, most imprisoned extremists will eventually be released. In order to reduce the likelihood that these individuals will return to terrorism after their release, it is essential to find ways to help them disengage from violent activities.
Finally, while prisons have at times been environments where violent extremism has festered, the prison setting can also present opportunities for positive change – serving as a place where the tide of violent radicalism can be reversed. Prisoners live in a controlled environment, where the negative influences from their past which pushed them toward violent extremism can be minimized. They can instead be surrounded by persons who encourage them to pursue a more positive path. There are examples of individuals who entered prison as extremists, were rehabilitated and were then released as enthusiastic messengers against violent extremist philosophies.
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