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Prisoner Responses to Terrorism: Online Radicalisation Proposal


The prison environment is fertile ground for radicalisation, where both mingling in overcrowded cells and solitary confinement produce the same frustration and negative emotion that feed extremist thinking. Existing Australian de-radicalisation programs, including PRISM, appear to focus exclusively on reforming an individual's beliefs, and neglect the social reasons, which lead them to support or join a terrorist organisation. More worryingly, recent legislative efforts by the government to indefinitely detain terrorist offenders even after serving their sentence suggests a national gravitation towards continued incarceration over improving rehabilitative efforts.

This is where we should look to and learn from international de-radicalisation programs. Among the lessons to be drawn from Denmark's Arhaus program is the clear fact that an individual's affective environment should be given equal weight to their beliefs in the de-radicalisation process. In reality, such a complex process cannot be reduced to a single factor, whether that be ideological retraining or behavioural change in the case of Islamist extremism. A variety of methods targeting the many social, political, and psychological factors in radicalisation has a greater chance of succeeding. Not only this, but as Pakistan's de-radicalisation program suggests, it is vital that offenders are exposed to positive and constructive influences in their community so that they may develop a strong sense of belonging to ensure long term disengagement.

Computers in cells could effectively provide many positive influences in one device, with potential to allow communication with trusted family members and friends, the use of online counselling, and the delivery of online courses that will equip offenders with the skills necessary to seek and gain stable employment post-release. Well-designed online programs can address multiple causes of radicalisation and assist in the overall rehabilitative philosophy around which prisons operate. They avoid "one size fits all" approaches such as solitary confinement, by mixing social contact and self-directed learning that better prepares an inmate for re-integration into society.

Any argument that the value of using computers in cells to provide online programs remains unproven is countered by programs in New Zealand and ACT prisons that provide selected online services to prisoners, demonstrating it is possible for inmates to have safe access to computers that allows them to make the most of what is an otherwise unproductive period in their lives. NSW prisons should take after the excellent examples set within the country and by our neighbours, and install computers in cells as soon as possible.


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