Deradicalization in Tunisian Prisons

Research has shown that prisons are often an ideal environment for recruitment into violent extremist groups, and the Tunisian prison system is not an exception. With an overcrowding rate of over 150% percent, detainees imprisoned for minor crimes or awaiting trial often share cells with individuals facing serious charges, including terrorism, thus being exposed to the risk of radicalization.

Since December 2015, we are leading a pilot initiative to address this problem, with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our project enhances the facilitation skills of prison staff, helping them to address emerging conflicts, and brings together all stakeholders in an effort to achieve long-term solutions to countering violent extremism throughout the prison system. This is the first project of its kind in Tunisia.

Our innovative approach aims at building the foundation of a management, rehabilitation, and reintegration system that addresses the primary drivers of violence and the appeal of violent extremism. Our activities include roundtable discussions and dialogues convening institutional stakeholders and international experts to explore the link between prisons and radicalization.

We have also led workshops for prison personnel on the management of radicalized detainees. The head of the Tunisian Directorate General of Prison and Re-Education, along with the directors of every Tunisian prison and detention center, attended one of these events. Another workshop convened 100 prison guards and focused specifically on techniques to manage at-risk detainees, including nonviolent communication, mediation, and the detection of signs of radicalization. Through these events, prison staff was exposed for the first time to key tools, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s Handbook on preventing radicalization in prisons.

Read an update about the end of Phase I of this project.

Banner photo: source