Kick-off meeting – Rome, February 2017

Rome, 21st -24th February 2017

Prison and Probation Staff Training Academy

Lucia Castellano (RASMORAD P&P EU project leader)

Welcome speech

In her role of project leader, General Director Lucia Castellano underlines that the European Agenda on Security (2015) has pointed out that Prevention of Radicalization is the cornerstone of the fight against international terrorism.

The Rasmorad P&P project would be the framework where Member States to promote a more integrated action, achieving and sharing deeper knowledge of the phenomenon, which is the first point at stake. The second project goal, is the development of a methodology, on scientific grounds, improving risk assessment and risk management in P&P contexts.

There is evidence that prison can be a breeding ground for the radicalization of vulnerable prisoners, and sometimes for turning individuals to violent expression of their personal beliefs. Frustration and sense of human deprivation, can be limited through total respect of human rights by the hosting State, and positive action to promote responsibility and social integration.

Besides, an efficient Probation system may better prevent the risk of violent radicalization, implementing sanctions within the social context, which enhances reintegration and helps renouncing violent behavior.

A main tool to meet this challenge is P&P staff training, providing skill in order to prevent, detect, and manage the phenomenon.

Within the European lines, the RASMORAD project aims to widen the experience and perspective of what has been done in the specific prison sector, where monitoring and prevention actions have been implemented for some time, to the entire system of execution of sentences, including the enforcement of community sanctions and probation.


Riccardo Turrini Vita (Director General for Training)

Thematic opening: historical and social backgrounds

General Director Riccardo Turrini Vita, in his welcome speech, offers some historical considerations, detected from the Italian recent history of criminal emergencies. He reminds that the Italian society (and the Prison Administration for its specific tasks) had to respond to a terrorist phenomenon in the Seventies of last century, which could be considered similar in structure to violent radicalization, that professionals have to challenge nowadays. It was then a radicalization on a political ground. But it must be noticed that the same behaviors, e.g. of proselytism in front of younger or vulnerable colleagues, can be also found in other structured criminal groups, inside or even outside prisons. What is new in the phenomenon we are dealing with, is perharps the reason grounding the choice, which is often the will of organizing social life according to a strong religious belief, not without the use of violent tools and actions if needed. Probably, such a strong religious ideology would prove unfit, in modern times, to promote deep and compulsive changes in society, but it is evident that it can be successful in persuading some individuals towards violence. While it is on the grounds of individual treatment that processes of disengagement, desistance, and/or “deradicalization” can be started and promoted.

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Francesco Cascini (Magistrate)

Magistrate Francesco Cascini underlines that the migration phenomenon is recent in Italy, compared with other European countries, and it concerns flows from Northern Africa above all. Nowadays, we face a second-generation community, who specially needs inclusion and integration policies.

On the other side, a large number of foreigners are in a socially fragile condition, many of them are illegal immigrants and this brings personal, social and cultural deprivation. Consequently, there is a growing number of foreigners in the prison system. Proselytism in this context is a danger, but religion in itself, and even radicalism, is a neutral sign in terms of risk, and must be considered together with other behavioral aspects. The point at stake is violent radicalization, which needs detection and contrast, but at first, it needs prevention through positive actions of support and inclusion, inside and outside the prison settings.

Attention toward young generations is fundamental, and, if challenge against violent radicalization among socially vulnerable groups is a global topic, it must be faced at all levels, local, national and international, with shared consciousness and integrated policies, oriented towards support, integration and inclusiveness much more than repression.

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Sonia Specchia (Director – Staff Member)

According to Ms Sonia Specchia, interventions of prevention and de-radicalization in P&P settings should be part of a comprehensive multi-agency strategy. Several policy areas, authorities, and community actors at all levels – local, regional, national and European – should be involved in a challenge that implies a wider perspective than the penal framework.

As for the last one, The European Guidelines for P&P services regarding radicalization and violent extremism (2016) call for appropriate policies and responses related to the rule of law and protection of human rights. They uphold the importance of investing in good prison and probation management and the need to train staff in order to counter radicalization leading to violent extremism.

A multi-sector strategy implies that a network of actors stand together with practitioners in proposing efficient disengagement programs for those radicalized, or at risk of radicalization. A desistance-based approach aims to involve the offender/inmate in setting up his own rehabilitation/resettlement project with the help of P&P professionals, the social network, and stakeholders.

In this framework, a Protocol was signed with the Union of Islamic Courts in Italy, which provides access to prisons of adequately trained Imam or cultural mediators, because if religious narratives and symbols, when abused, may become a driver for radicalization, religion can also play a vital role in countering it. As well, a key role in the Italian set of strategies is played by Exit NGO, specialized in programs of de-radicalization and/or disengagement, that include behavioral and cognitive aspects, and can be delivered both in individual and collective settings.


Gad Lerner (Italian Journalist)

Radicalisation: a perspective from the outside

Journalist Gad Lerner, working for the Italian national TV network, recently explored the dimension of Islam in Italy, which is a quite new reality, and tried to detect eventual prejudice and misunderstanding on it. In fact, the native population, for historical reasons, may be not acquainted with different cultures and ways of life. This fundamental ignorance easily engenders confusion, if not stereotype and rejection.

Lerner also studied some cases in prison settings. In the Italian system, a significant rate of inmates are strangers, and, among these, a good number are Muslim and following religious practices. Besides, quite few are those accused of international terrorism crimes committed in-house, or considered at “risk”. In meetings and interviews with the inmates, he reached the conviction that – in this close context especially – Islam, and its practices, needs to be respected and considered part of daily life. It should have its recognized time and space and be included in a public sphere, in order to protect the younger and the more vulnerable from dangerous violent proselytism (which often happens through Internet and the social networks), grounded on frustration and isolation.

Several social studies have proved that the same pattern can take place in different contexts, e.g. socially and economically deprived areas in Europe, where young males could misunderstand affiliation to violent radical groups as a sign of promotion, dignity, and personal success.

All this calls for active policies of prevention, which should focus on economic, social, and cultural inclusion.

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The Italian Penitentiary Administration (DAP) contribution concerns Law enforcement measures against “religious terrorism”, implemented over the years in the whole prison system. Study and analysis of radicalization and proselytism have been refined trough the constitution of a Central Investigative Unit, which coordinates a network of local specially trained contacts in order to monitor, with different levels of attention, those prisoners related to the crime of international terrorism and all subjects reported for alleged proselytizing activities and violent radicalization.

A set of information called “indicators of radicalization” has been provided, in order to detect behaviors or situations in the daily life of prisons, which could be considered at risk.

Besides, since 2008 the Penitentiary Administration is included in the Committee of Anti-terrorism Strategic Analysis (C.A.S.A.), a permanent table with the Judicial Police and Intelligence services, which is an important tool at national level, that allows to share and evaluate information regarding the internal and international terrorist threat.

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The Portuguese DGRSP proposes a brief overview of the P&P system in Portugal, where, since 2012, only one General Direction exists, comprehending the mission of criminal prevention, enforcement of sentences and social reintegration measures, management of the prison system and juvenile justice. The funding philosophy of such a multi-task structure, is to offer a transversal and holistic intervention, focused on the individual, where multiple causes can be recognized as the origin of deviant behavior (e.g. cognitive deficits, substance abuse, conflictive family structures, etc.)

The current situation, with a focus on the issue of radicalization, includes sharing experience inside European networks such as RAN, EuroPris, etc., and in the national contest – at an early stage – the development of an Internal Intelligence Department, dedicated to the detection of vulnerable individuals and prevention inside prison contexts.

Presentation of Portuguese Prison and Probation Services


Foreign fighters: threats (Belgium experience)

The Belgium Prison Service presentation concerns the policies towards radicalized prisoners, with special attention to foreign fighters.

The goal of preventing and contrasting radicalization is to be achieved by ten action points. Improvement of living conditions in prisons is the first point; the following steps concern collecting, exchange and analysis of information; specific stress is given to basic and specific training for staff members who are daily in contact with radicalized prisoners, be they placed in common prisons or in “specialized” wings. The last action points concern development of deradicalization programs.

Presentation – Foreign fighters 

Currently being updated

Automatic translation