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A photograph dated on 23 August, 2017, showing the front gate to Hämeenlinna Prison Hospital.
A photograph dated on 23 August, 2017, showing the front gate to Hämeenlinna Prison Hospital.

 

The Criminal Sanctions Agency (Rise) has begun mulling over measures to address the emerging phenomenon of radicalisation and violent extremism in prisons in Finland.

Rise has launched a project to develop new means to detect signs of radicalisation among prisoners identified a total of 84 prisoners who have shown a tendency toward violent extremism by, for example, celebrating successful terror attacks. Most of such prisoners have shown a tendency toward radical Islam.

The prisoners were identified despite “a noticeable scarcity of resources,” Juha Eriksson, the project manager at Rise, highlights in an interview with Uusi Suomi.

He reveals that the first course of action will be to place the most problematic cases in closed prisons. The imprisonment act currently prescribes that prisoners cannot be placed in a prison or prison ward with a needlessly high level of security for guaranteeing prison order and security and the security of the imprisonment.

“At least they shouldn’t be placed in the most open facilities,” says Eriksson.

Another question on the agenda of the task force is whether or not prisoners who have shown a tendency toward extremism should all be assigned to a particular ward or isolated from each other. Eriksson reminds, however, that prisoners can only be placed in isolation if there is reason to believe they are planning on escaping or committing a crime.

“We’re considering in the task force whether we should place the radicalised prisoners away from each other or […] place them in a specific ward where they can’t interact and radicalise others,” he says.

“This is an attempt to intervene in recruitment activity, to make sure a radicalised prisoner doesn’t radicalise another.”

Finland has according to him yet to take co-ordinated action to isolate prisoners who have sought to radicalise others, despite the fact that “a couple” of prisoners who are spreading radical ideologies have been identified.

“Finland has yet to make any big decisions,” he says. “Most European countries with more experience of the phenomenon have tried both [approaches]. Both have their pros and cons. Our problem is that our prisons are relatively full and there isn’t too much wiggle room.”

The task force estimates in its interim report that “safe institutional placement” could be the most effective way to prevent the radicalism among prisoners. Its objective, the task force adds, is to ensure the prisoners most vulnerable to radicalisation are not subjected to the influence of those spreading radical ideologies.

The task force also argues that the key measures to tackle the emerging problem also include allocating more resources to information gathering in both open and closed penal institutions, and promoting exchange of information between various security authorities.

Rise currently provides information about prisoners to be released to law enforcement authorities to the extent that is permitted under law.

“Exchange of information plays an important part whenever a radicalised prisoner is set to be released. Finland has no reason to repeat the mistake made elsewhere in Europe – of newly released prisoners taking authorities by surprise by committing terror attacks,”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Mikko Stig – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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