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PRI hosts first regional conference on combatting violent extremism and radicalisation in prison

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Last week, (Penal Reform International) PRI’s Central Asia office hosted a regional conference bringing together representatives from five countries to share experiences on effective prison management of violent extremism offenders.

Data shows that the number of those convicted of violent extremist and terrorist crimes is growing, and there are concerns in some Central Asian countries that prisons have served as a favourable environment for radicalisation and the promotion of extremist and terrorist ideologies. The aim of the conference was to provide practitioners with a number of tools to enable them to develop and improve methods and procedures for combatting radicalisation in prison, as well as strengthen ties between each county’s criminal justice system.

Over two days, experts from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan discussed the current situation and strategies in their prison and probation systems, including how violent extremism prisoners are accommodated and managed within prisons, as well as rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, capacity building, and assessment tools.

Taghreed Jaber, PRI’s Regional Director in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) spoke about existing rehabilitation programmes and needs assessment tools in the MENA region. PRI’s Regional Director in Central Asia, Azamat Shambilov, moderated the event and stressed the importance of an individual approach: ‘The personnel involved in working with this category of convicted persons should consist of such specialists as professional counsellors, social workers, theologians, imams, psychiatrists and psychologists. It is also important for the system to focus on the gender and age aspects, since if you include everyone without exception in the rehabilitation process, this can lead to a large percentage of failures. Rehabilitation is impossible in conditions of overcrowded facilities, poorly trained staff, an atmosphere of fear, violence and mistrust.’

A selection of paintings by prisoners from the Central Asia region was also exhibited at the event. More pictures of the artwork can be seen here.

The conference was organised in cooperation with Kyrgyzstan’s State Penitentiary Service, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the UK Embassy in Kyrgyzstan.

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