The Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) has come up with strategies to prevent radicalisation and recruitment of prisoners to terrorism.
The correctional facilities, mandated to provide an opportunity for violent extremist prisoners to disengage from violence and be rehabilitated, have been identified as some of the places where radicalisation and recruitment take place.
The KPS Commissioner-General Wycliffe Ogallo on Monday said the service was working closely with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and the Global Centre on Cooperative Security (GCCS) to ensure that such facilities are not used as recruitment centres.
“Violent extremist offenders can easily incubate and propagate terrorist ideology while incarcerated and therefore prison officials have continuously devised new strategies and the solutions in managing Violent Extremists Offenders (VEOs),” he said.
Ogalo was speaking during the Countering Violent Extremism in Prisons (CVE-P) Awareness Raising Course that was developed by experts from NCTC, KPS, and the GCCS.
The Kenya National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism (KNSCVE) has said some of these facilities provided convicted terrorists and their supporters with a potentially captive audience of disaffected individuals, free of distractions.
“The service attaches a lot of importance towards management of violent extremism offenders who fall in this category of high-risk offenders and the concerns associated with their possibility to attract new recruits while incarcerated or plan attacks upon release,” he said.
The CG added that the service backstops the national security of the country by ensuring safe containment and rehabilitation of inmates to facilitate their social integration upon release.
“This includes those charged with terrorism related offences known as violent extremism offenders. The determination of the service to find solutions to the scourge of violent extremism in prisons is solid and unwavering,” he said.
The CVE-P program in Kenya was established in 2015 by the NCTC in cooperation with the KPS and the GCCS.
The program aims at improving prison staff understanding of the dynamics and the challenges posed by violent extremism within the facilities.
In Kenya, Shimo La Tewa and Kamiti Maximum Security Prison have the biggest population of inmates associated with terror offences, creating serious security concerns within the penal system, according to reports.
Hundreds of them have been convicted of engaging in various terrorist activities, promoting radicalisation and violent take-overs of mosques, especially in the Coast region.
Though prisons are expected to protect society by confining offenders in facilities that are safe, humane and secure and to ensure that offenders are actively participating in programs that will assist them in becoming law-abiding citizens when they return to our communities, overcrowding has been a major challenge.
“Radicalisation primarily stems from a combination of institutional, social and individual factors such as overcrowding and deprivation, violence and group dynamics. Overcrowding creates stress and induces inmates to create subgroups that compete over scarce resources and social status,” the report adds.