Globally the growing threat of terrorism is of concern however, more crucial is the fear of violent extremism and radicalisation in our prison system and whether Uganda Prisons Services is equipped to handle this new threat.
Prisons have long been identified as incubators for radicalisation to terrorism because of the growing numbers of extremist prisoners including foreign terrorist fighters.
In discussion that was held in Kampala to find the solutions to this, James Mwanje the deputy commissioner General of Prison noted that the current trend of inmates don’t fear to be punished and some reach to the extent of not fearing death.
He said a security unit was created to monitor these prisoners in Luzira maximum prison however the prison rehabilitation services are no match for radicalisation to terrorism.
He stated that prison is trying to make sure that prisoners are comfortable within UN laws.
“We don’t torture but we need to have a special way of how to change their minds from that criminal behaviour into law abiding citizen using non cohesive method,” he said.
He explained that the kind of training they are undertaking will help them acquire new skills on how to handle the category of such inmates.
“Currently it is confinement mostly. We confine them and we don’t allow them to mix with other ordinary prisoners and that is why these programmes are here to teach us the new skills of handling of this category of inmates we are starting to get,” he noted.
The director UN counter Terrorism Centre Steven Siqueria, noted that there is need to review the current security mechanism in place for instance detention without trial especially in safe houses given the rise of radicalisation.
“Effort to address violent extremism must not lead to undermining fundamental human right to which all persons including violent extremist prisoners are entitled to including freedom of thought, religion or belief and absolute prohibition of torture,” he said.
He said delayed trials are also a problem as they lead to overcrowding in prison.
This provide fertile ground for recruitment into terrorism.
Currently, there are 33 male prisoners accused of aiding, abetting and belonging to terrorist organisations.
There are fears that violent extremism and radicalisation may spread throughout the system, if not properly handled.