Much of the current discourse about prisons and radicalisation is negative. Prisons are often said to have become breeding grounds for radicalisation. They are ‘places of vulnerability’, providing conditions in which radical, religiously framed ideologies can flourish. But prisons are not just a threat – they can play a positive role in tackling problems of radicalisation and terrorism in society as a whole.

To develop effective policies and approaches, understanding of the mechanism of radicalisation is essential. To obtain information on the likelihood of violent extremist action in prison and how to try to intervene case-by-case the Vera instrument was developed by D. Elaine Pressman in 2009. This first edition was revised in 2012 (Pressman and Flockton), after empirical use and feedback from international experts.   The most recent version, the VERA 2R (Pressman, Duits, Rinne and Flockton 2016)  is supplemented with additional mental health related indicators as well as risk promoting and risk mitigating indicators.

The VERA 2 is the most comprehensive version and includes an assessment of  risk and threat elements of the broad spectrum of violent extremists. The tool is relevant for right-wing, left-wing, political separatists, ISIS, Al-Qaeda inspired and other political, social or religious ideological -based violent extremists, those  in the process of radicalization to violence and those vulnerable to becoming radicalized.

Elaine Pressman, Ph.D and Associate Fellow at the International Centre for Counter Terrorism in The Hague: “Systematic and consistent  risk assessments provide individualized information on  needs, motivations and Ideology  required to develop  customized interventions.  Measurable changes in the risk assessments are able to  determine the  outcome of these  interventions. Targeted intervention is likely to achieve the greatest gains”.

For more information, visit the website of ICCT.

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