The Commonwealth has delivered a four-day workshop in Trinidad and Tobago designed to counter violent extremism in prisons.
The training course, which was officially opened by Commissioner Gerald Wilson of the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service, was attended by 35 senior officials and prison staff who took part in the training from 21-24 May in Port of Spain, the country’s capital.
Working with consultants from the Global Center for Cooperative Security, the Commonwealth helped provide participants with a detailed understanding of key concepts in managing violent extremism within prisons and highlighted international best practices in the management of violent extremist offenders.
The workshop is the second phase of an ongoing initiative exploring the drivers of violent extremism, causes and ideologies; and identifying the role of prisons in preventing radicalisation and recruitment to extremist groups among their population.
Mark Albon, head of the Commonwealth’s unit to counter violent extremism, said the ultimate aim of the programme is to establish a core of expertise within Trinidad and Tobago’s prison services. He says this will help effectively manage the phenomenon of violent extremism as it occurs in their prisons, and position the country as a leader in developing strategies and policies to deal with violent extremist offenders.
He added: “Research around the world has shown the prison environment to be a key opportunity for recruiters to the cause of violent extremism to target individuals when they are in a very vulnerable situation.
“It is essential for management and operational prison staff to be able to recognise such vulnerability and to understand how and why prisoners are susceptible to the ideologies of hate and exclusion that are at the heart of extremism.
“By providing prison officers with knowledge and understanding of best and promising practices for preventing and countering extremists’ attempts to recruit among their fellow prisoners, the Commonwealth is helping offenders to take positive experiences from their incarceration and to become productive and contributing members of society upon their release.”