Preventing violence in prisons
Title: Prevention of violence and radicalisation in the Tunisian penitentiary system
Commissioned by: Federal Foreign Office
Lead executing agency: Ministère de la Justice (Ministry of Justice), Direction Générale des Prisons et de la Rééducation (Prison Administration)
Overall term: 2018 to 2021
Since the 2011 revolution, a large number of Tunisian jihadists have joined violent extremist groups in Syria and Libya. The judiciary and the authorities in Tunisia face major challenges in reintegrating the returnees and prosecuting them, also in view of the fact that Tunisia was and continues to be the target of attacks on both security forces and tourists (Bardo and Sousse, 2015). In response to the attacks, Tunisia has made substantial investments in the security sector, developed a national strategy to combat extremism and terrorism and initiated further judicial reforms.
The judiciary, however, is swamped. Many courts deal with a high number of petty offences, prisons are overcrowded and hygienic conditions are poor. In 2016 there were about 23,000 people in prison, 97 percent of them men. After their release, prisoners have few prospects and feel discriminated against by the state. Approximately 40 percent of former prisoners will reoffend. This marginalization, exclusion and lack of prospects allow radical extremist groups to mobilise supporters for their own purposes in the prisons.
Violence in prisons is reduced, and radicalisation of prisoners in Tunisian prisons and after their release from prison diminished. This will enable the Tunisian Government to better contain violent extremism.
The project supports the Tunisian Government in reducing violence and radicalisation in prisons. It will help improve conditions in selected prisons and juvenile detention centres, and reintegrate former prisoners. It supports the Tunisian Ministry of Justice and the Directorate General of Prisons and Re-education (DGPR), partly by delivering technical and organisational advisory services, as well as providing support in the field of infrastructure and equipment. The project takes into account the special needs of different target groups (men, women, young people).
The project operates in three fields of activity:
- Vocational training and reintegration: The project supports technical and vocational education and training for both prisoners and prison staff. The professional and social reintegration of prisoners after their release serves to prevent social isolation and any return to criminal activity as well as reducing radicalisation.
- Psychosocial support and socio-cultural activities: Inmates in prisons and juvenile detention centres often lack recreational opportunities and appropriate psychological counselling. The project thus supports the extension and improvement of cultural and social services as well as psychological support services for inmates. Better conditions in prisons will lessen the prisoners' everyday frustrations, which are a major source of violence in the detention centres.
- Support for the juvenile justice system: Tunisia has created a legal framework for sentencing juvenile offenders that is a trailblazer in the Arab world. However, it still needs to be implemented in practice, for example with regard to alternative prison sentences and suspended sentences. The project supports Tunisia's efforts to anchor these mechanisms.