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Council of Europe Handbook for Prison and Probation Services regarding Radicalisation and Violent Extremism

1282th meeting, 22 March 2017; 10 Legal questions;

10.3 European Committee on Crime Problems (CDPC)


1. Concern has been expressed over the fact that prisons may be used as a breeding ground for radicalised violent extremists and that radicalised offenders scheduled for release from prison or those on probation are not being appropriately rehabilitated. Apprehension increased following a number of terrorist acts committed in Europe in 2015 and in 2016 as a number of the major perpetrators had passed through the criminal justice system.

2. The need for clarity regarding the role that prison and probation services can and should play in preventing and dealing with radicalisation leading to violent extremism has led to the adoption by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe of “Guidelines for prison and probation services regarding radicalisation and violent extremism”[2]. This work is part of the actions taken by the Council of Europe member States as agreed at the 125th Session of the Committee of Ministers (Brussels, 19 May 2015)[3].

3. The Guidelines are intended to provide a general legal and ethical framework for devising appropriate policies and responses which conform to the Council of Europe standards and principles 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 to high professional and ethical standards in order to effectively counter radicalisation leading to violent extremism. They also emphasise that prison and probation work should be seen as part of a comprehensive multi‑agency strategy to combat violent extremism. 4. In addition, it was decided that a handbook for the prison and probation services of the Council of Europe member States would be compiled to build upon and further develop the set of standards and principles contained in the Guidelines. The objective of the “Handbook”, which is to be used and read together with the Guidelines and in accordance with national law and international human rights standards, is to provide practical advice to prison and probation services, identify a list of indicators of radicalisation, provide examples of possible tools and methods to prevent and deal with radicalisation leading to violent extremism and identify some recommended practices in this respect.

5. The Handbook is intended to be consistent with the Council of Europe values and standards, in particular, the European Prison Rules and the Council of Europe Probation Rules and it should be used in conjunction with these texts. National authorities should be aware that juveniles need special attention and different methods of intervention from adults. This takes into account their developing personality and specific needs. The present Handbook should be adapted accordingly when applied to juveniles and follow the European Rules for juvenile offenders, subject to sanctions or measures.

6. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)[4], as well as the EU funded Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) are also working actively in this area. Representatives of the Radicalisation Awareness Network and other experts have joined efforts to work on the present Handbook in order to communicate international knowledge and expertise available in this area. The present Handbook is a result of these joint efforts which aim at assisting the national authorities and society in general to more effectively deal with radicalisation leading to violent extremism. 7. The work was carried out by the Council for Penological Co‑operation (PC‑CP) between January 2015 and October 2016. Members of the PC‑CP Working Group at that time were (in alphabetical order): Nathalie BOISSOU (France); Annie DEVOS (Belgium); Vivian GEIRAN, PC‑CP Chair (Ireland); Antanas JATKEVIČIUS (Lithuania); Jörg JESSE, PC‑CP Vice‑Chair (Germany); Attila JUHÁSZ (Hungary); Dominik LEHNER (Switzerland); Nikolaos KOULOURIS (Greece);Nadya RADKOVSKA (Bulgaria). The draft text was prepared by the three external scientific experts Christopher DEAN (UK); Merel MOLENKAMP (The Netherlands) and D. Elaine PRESSMAN (The Netherlands/Canada).