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Prisoner Responses to Terrorism: Online Radicalisation Proposal

Executive Summary

The Government and Opposition have supported legislation to "extend [the] detention" of inmates convicted of terrorism offences. This legislation involves extending the sentences of prisoners who are still deemed to pose a terrorism threat, despite the completion of their original sentence. Considering that prisoners are confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day, this extension would further deprive them of positive experiences that might dissuade them from extremism. The prison environment presents an opportunity for terrorist offenders to radicalise their younger, more impressionable peers; while poor, over-crowded conditions with little meaningful social contact predisposes inmates to radicalisation. The pressing issue then is how to de-radicalise terrorist prisoners through positive means. The purpose of this report is to build a comprehensive case for online counselling as the only possible method of delivering such programs in NSW. They have been proven to work in the ACT, and similar programs should be adopted in NSW prisons.

The Proactive Integrated Support Model (PRISM) is a federally funded initiative currently in use in the NSW and Victorian jurisdictions. The PRISM framework attempts to help inmates move away from radical extremism and re-engage with the community once attitudes and beliefs of religious interpretations have been changed. Under this program authorities are supposedly trained "to generically...identify signs of radicalised behaviour" in prisoners and pass on that information to specific departments in order to assess, monitor, and act to rehabilitate individuals. Existing literature on issues surrounding the radicalisation and de-radicalisation process are central to this report.

There are many ways in which an individual can become radicalised; existing theories emphasise different perspectives or levels of radicalisation. A number of factors such as a lack of social support, political views, and individual factors are common themes among radicalised individuals. In addressing these issues, we need to take into account that the pathways to radicalisation and de-radicalisation hold a variety of differing start, development and end points. This ultimately proves that a one-size-fits-all approach is bound for institutional failure.

Existing prison programs administered across a variety of nations contain enviable protocols that enhance the rehabilitation process. Nations such as Denmark, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Algeria all have distinctive de-radicalisation programs that cater to unique cultural and social conditions. For example, Saudi Arabia and Singapore emphasise re-educating inmates on their understanding of Islam as congruent with the program's central tenet of changing previous attitudes and beliefs, whereas the Aarhus model used in Denmark focuses more on reintegration, where a variety of social and community services play a key role in the rehabilitation process. These examples demonstrate the diversity of programs and approaches available for implementation both in corrective institutions and within the broader community.

The major hurdle for existing de-radicalisation programs is delivery and transparency with results. This means that the success rates of these programs are difficult ascertain with sufficient certainty. However, there is evidence that strong engagement with rehabilitative resources while in prison leads to lower recidivism. Providing access to online counselling in cells would increase the availability of these services and the probability of successful rehabilitation.

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