The EU’s Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Vera Jourová and a group of leading experts gathered in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss a strategy aimed at countering the radicalisation of prisoners incarcerated in correctional facilities across the EU.
“Recently in France, several prison officers were attacked by inmates, and some of them were possibly identified as radicalized. The leaders of ISIS and Al-Qaeda received their education in terror in prisons,” said Jourová, adding, “Amedy Coulibaly, who attacked customers in a Kosher store in Paris, and Cherif Kouachi, one of the attackers on Charlie Hebdo, were radicalised in French prisons.”
The gathering comes as European leaders grow increasingly worried about the number of Islamist terrorists with extremist views and who were radicalised in jails across the EU continues to climb.
“To minimise the risk of terrorist attacks. we need to tackle the root of the problem…the existence of a radical extremist political ideology,” said Jourová, adding “We should be clear to distinguish it from religion.”
Jourová acknowledged the challenge of identifying and solving the issue of radicalisation and emphasised that she believes that governments, alone, cannot be expected to get to the bottom of the issue.
“The response needs to come from all levels, both national and local. Teachers, social services, prison staff, local communities, they all can do a lot to prevent the spread radicalisation,” said Jourová.
Jourová believes that Brussels can take a leading role in the process by formulating an effective EU-wide response mechanism to the threat of radicalisation while also having experts and adequate funds available in areas that are deemed to be at risk.
According to Jourová, the Commission could also take an active part in the process by improving the exchange of information sharing. “The reform of the Schengen Information System will help EU governments exchange information faster and better.”
The Commission will also propose further recommendations this week about the sort of actions Internet provider will take in terms of removing terrorist content. added the Commissioner for Justice.
Mobilising practitioners and creating platforms for exchange and mobilizing an estimated €25 million over the next 4 years will be needed to mobilise the sort of expertise and create anti-radicalisation platforms needed to help bolster the Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network.
The EU budget for anti-radicalisation projects until 2020 currently stands at €314 million.
After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015, the EU concluded that European prisons often act as breeding grounds for the teaching of extremist ideology.
Prison management, however, falls under the jurisdiction of each individual country, and the Commission hopes to improve the exchange information between the Member States to better develop risk assessment methodologies, promote alternatives to lengthy sentences, and to train judges, prosecutors, prison, and probation staff at the EU level.