East African countries should make concerted efforts to prevent radicalization in prisons and detention centers across the region, a security official said on Tuesday.

Prisons are “highly unsettling environments, in which individuals are more likely than elsewhere to explore new beliefs and associations,” said Abebe Muluneh, director of Security Sector Division at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

“Confronted with existential questions and deprived of their existing social networks, prisoners with no previous involvement in politically motivated violence are vulnerable to being radicalized and recruited into terrorism because prisons are places of vulnerability and play an enormous role in the narratives of every radical and militant in the modern period,” an IGAD statement quoted Muluneh as saying.

“Individual de-radicalization and disengagement programs aim to reduce the number of active terrorists in a given society by helping individual terrorists abandon terrorism as well as ease their reintegration into mainstream society,” he said.

The statement urged the eight IGAD members “to use their prison intelligence to curb prison radicalization, especially in managing terrorist/jihadist prisoners.”

IGAD groups Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.

The countries should intensify their engagements so as to curb contributing factors across prisons in the region that potentially increase the likelihood of prisoners being radicalized, Muluneh said.

According to IGAD, there has been a potential linkage between imprisonment and radicalization to violence and terrorism, which has become a source of serious concern across the globe.

“Often, perpetrators of terrorist acts have a criminal history, and there are cases of individuals having been recruited or radicalized to violence-led terrorism in the course of imprisonment,” IGAD said.

Prison facilities have become “breeding grounds for radicalization which provide near to perfect conditions in which radical, religiously framed ideologies flourish,” it said.

IGAD’s security sector program organizes meetings on prison radicalization, focusing on “prison inmates who among them are youth and women, thus vulnerable to radicalization requiring urgent attention and focus through a future regional comprehensive program in partnership with IGAD member states to deal with violent behavior in prison facilities.”

Representatives from key institutions within the IGAD region, as part of the meetings, also receive training on preventing radicalization in prisons and detention centers, it was noted. Enditem

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