Leading the Way: Europe’s Experts and Decision Makers views on Extremism Response – Comment by Dr Francesco Farinelli

19 October 2023
Justice Trends, 19 October 2023
Photo credits: Justice Trends


The 11th edition of the JUSTICE TRENDS Magazine showcases a diverse array of expert-authored articles that delve into relevant initiatives within the realm of countering radicalisation and rehabilitating violent extremists. This issue of the magazine also features interviews with Ministers of Justice, penitentiary officers, prominent figures in the Justice sector worldwide, and a commentary of Dr Francesco Farinelli on the prison environment as a place of vulnerability for the creation of opportunistic alliances between extremists of different persuasions, along with insights on some programmes that can aid in rehabilitating violent detainees and facilitating their reintegration into society.

You can read Dr Farinelli commentary beneath:

"The prison environment can act as a trigger for opportunistic alliances between extremists of different persuasions because of their shared hatred for the authorities."


In research, prisons are seen as places of vulnerability that can foster radicalisation.

It is generally assumed that the main factors of the radicalisation processes in the prison environment include the influence of charismatic or spiritual leaders, feelings of alienation, perceptions of oppression, the harshness of the environment, and contact with extremists.
It should also be highlighted that individuals are usually more receptive to extremist ideologies when their own identity is questioned, and prisons are an environment that leads to the search for a new identity, trust, and hope, making them more vulnerable to extremist ideologies.
Furthermore, inmates, frequently hailing from marginalised backgrounds, may carry traumas, rendering them less equipped to handle the pressures of prison life. This vulnerability can lead them to seek protection by affiliating with prison gangs, providing extremists with an additional avenue to exert influence.
Finally, internal conditions in prisons can also act as a trigger for the emergence of opportunistic alliances between extremists of different persuasions because of their shared hatred for the authorities, namely the police and prison service.
Against this background, challenges linked to the rehabilitation of violent extremists and criminals are part of the work the prison system faces daily. Various programmes, spanning from education to cultural activities, aid in rehabilitating violent detainees and promoting their integration into society, reducing the likelihood of violent extremist behaviour.

For instance, Greece’s ‘Second Chance School’ provides comprehensive education to inmates, fostering their participation in economic, social, and cultural realms.

In Czechia, an educational approach empowers inmates with responsibilities like tending to plants and animals, instilling a sense of ownership. Denmark’s ‘Back on Track’ program aids detainees in disengaging from extremist environments through mentoring, redirecting their focus towards positive post-release networks.

These examples represent practices that can be implemented and tailored to suit other EU countries. They present an opportunity for the prison system to address the critical need to diminish radicalisation processes within correctional facilities and to facilitate the effective reintegration of individuals with a history of violence back into society.


The integral version of this edition is available here: