Terrorist and radical pressure in Belgian prisons is gradually decreasing
Thursday, 02 July 2020
At the end of May, there were 165 inmates linked to terrorism and radicalisation in Belgian prisons. Credit: Belga
Pressure from terrorists and radicals in Belgian prisons is gradually decreasing, according to a report on the fight against radicalisation in Belgian prisons written by Egmont Institute researcher Thomas Renard.
At the end of May, there were 165 inmates linked to terrorism and radicalisation in Belgian prisons, according to the criteria of the Directorate General of Penitentiary Institutions (DG EPI), accounting for 1.7% of all prisoners. Most of these prisoners were found to have links with radical Islamist ideology, with the exception of 5 prisoners classified as extreme right-wing extremists.
These prisoners are fewer in number than at the beginning of 2018, when there were 250 inmates in this category. Half of them were sentenced to less than 10 years in prison. More than 370 radical prisoners have been released from Belgian prisons since 2012, according to figures collected by Renard. Sixty others are eligible for release by the end of 2021.
Besides these prisoners getting released, Renard points to a “jihadist narrative that is less attractive to influenceable inmates in the post-caliphate era, and fewer proactive recruiters in prisons compared to previous years.”
Since the jihadist crisis of 2013-2015, Belgium is also relying on dispersion, with the number of extremist prisoners not exceeding 6% per prison. An exception to this principle is the creation in 2016 of Deradex cells to isolate the most hardened recruiters and hate preachers.
Another reason for “moderate optimism,” according to Renard, is that the post-prison period is now better regulated than it was at the birth of the Islamic State (IS) Caliphate, with both the Flemish and French-speaking communities having set up support units for former prisoners for terrorism, run on a voluntary basis.