Training on prison radicalisation

Published 13.3.2019

On 22nd of February, HEUNI organised a training seminar on prison radicalisation in co-operation with The Finnish Criminal Sanctions Agency, the Training Institute for Prison and Probation Services and Laurea University of Applied Sciences. The seminar was based on a training programme for prison operators developed in an EU funded “Fighting against Inmates Radicalization" (FAIR) project. The training programme aims to build the capacity of prison operators related to the detection and prevention of radicalisation in prisons and to improve operators’ knowledge and skills related to the rehabilitation of radicalized prisoners. The seminar brought together close to 100 prison operators and students to discuss radicalization with a particular focus on prevention and rehabilitation.

A need assessment, conducted by HEUNI in 2018, among Finnish prison operators revealed that there is a spectrum of available rehabilitation programmes in Finnish prisons, but no tailor-made programmes for radicalised prisoners. In the seminar, the speakers highlighted the growing number of foreigners in Finnish prisons and the overall need for culturally sensitive and multilingual prevention and rehabilitation programmes. Speakers noted that it is important to make sure that targeted rehabilitation programmes do not label some groups or individuals, which might be counterproductive. In order to identify indicators of radicalisation or to assist a prisoner to detach, the prison staff member should have good communication skills and an ability to create rapport with the person in question. In addition, cultural knowledge and sensitivity for working with clients from a different cultural background as well as language skills are needed. One good practice presented in the seminar was the use of cultural mediators to create understanding with a foreign client.

In the end evaluation of the seminar, almost 70% of the participants responded that they were now aware or very aware of the links between imprisonment and radicalization, but 50% of the respondents said that they still had little or very little tools and skills to prevent radicalization. Luckily the need for training and for developing programmes are well acknowledged within the Finnish Criminal Sanctions Agency and within the Training Institute, who have increased resources for developing programmes and training staff related to working with foreign prisoners as well as on radicalization. More information on the project and training materials: