Mr. President, Nigeria requires special readiness for Terrorist Prison
In recent days the media is reporting that the Nigerian federal government appeared to have opened a Prison for terrorism related offenders in the state of Lagos.
From the point of forensic and legal psychology, assuming that the Nigerian authorities are considering a special penitentiary institution for persons involved in terrorism, it is essential for us to know if these persons are awaiting trial, in that case they should be in what is called a jail setting not a prison, and if they have already been convicted are they in a security ready prison setting?
Specifically, will the purpose of terrorist prison be to put them in a special institution designed for the purpose of preventing them from recruiting or radicalizing regular inmates?
In ordinary correctional terms, are these detainees going to be designated for terrorism jails and do we have them or will all of them go into prisons a possible danger as some of them may be suspected of a terrorist offense at this time, while others have been convicted of terrorist crimes?
Assuming the media is right about the future or the present plans for a terrorist inmates facility there is need to debate about the suitability of having all-round terrorism detention facility in a developing nation like Nigeria, and when these special inmates exhibit radicalizing or recruiting behaviors, what psychological and intelligence assessment approaches in prisons will be utilized to measure if their behaviors before or during incarceration could be fully modified?
How often will these terrorist inmates be evaluated in terms of measuring their psychological dangerousness and radicalization levels?
Do we already have the penal, rehabilitative and correctional policies in place to implement this highly unique incarceration system, and what training policies are being put in place for officers and professional staff who will be working with these special populations?
Currently, our knowledge about the Nigerian penal or correctional environment shows that all these issues of terrorist offenders, inmates and convicts are historically uncommon in the polity of our decision-making process as it relates to working with abundant persons with terrorists mindset and convictions. This terrorism matter is in fact generally a new phenomenon and an extraordinary test for the whole country.
This is especially evident in a society that is not very rich in security infrastructure, electricity, telecommunication and forensic psychology, and these chronic limitations are especially noticeable in our present penal institutions.
In an all-round terrorist penal environment radicalization as a collective behavior could immediately gain its presence within those walls where there are a concentration of terrorist inmates ,and therefore it could lead to the formation of various advances as in political or dogmatic priorities among some inmates. In such a case the prison authorities will need to learn how to rapidly develop an acceptable detention strategy that will counter the political objectives of these special populations.
The policy makers and penal authorities should aim to create interruptions that must cover all possible risks within the institution—that means having maximum control and security at every seconds of the day with full blown security and general infrastructures.
Now that the policy makers and security agencies are under real pressure to solve terrorist problems they must reflect on the long standing backwardness of the system in regards to lack of a modern classification systems in the Nigerian prisons.
For example, suspects with terrorist background, and convicts of terrorist crimes do look, see, and hear each other and this unsettling issue raises legitimate concerns because many times the suspects and convicts live in the same environ—this is solely due to lack of adequate classification system. The danger of these limitations are that a police suspect of terrorism is not yet convicted, therefore could return to the society any time where he or she will expand on what he or she has learned in a detention setting.
In the same vein, terrorist convicts who may be speaking one language or conversing or writing in a similar language are security risks if we do not have guards and officers who are fully experienced in the same language. This is very important to help monitor and handle these risks in terms of reducing the spread of radicalization, dangerousness, or even plans for mass suicide or the road to martyrdom if religious priority becomes more hardened among the contained inmates.
One way to reduce or fully monitor some of these concerns as done in some updated societies is to use the method of a disjointed approach and diffusion of terrorists throughout various prisons.
But if we are to pursue a strategy of concentrated confinement of terrorist lawbreakers we will need to involve making new housing plans respectively for terrorists awaiting trial or the already convicted ones who fall into various categories like females, delinquents, mental retardation, and those with visual, auditory, and physical handicaps.
These classifications or categories are needed for adequate operationalization of the terrorism-concentrated jails if any or modern prisons if available. These categories certainly could have strong influences on any future policy used in implementing terrorist penal programs.
It is essential that for effective security measures to be taking in regards to these special inmates or targeted population, new detention models should be ready and should largely be security and behaviorally prepared to match the unique challenges from these inmates.
Since the proposed aim of concentrated terrorism camp is attempting to prevent the captives or convicts from further coordinating or remaining attractive to terrorist activities , and also to help curtail more radicalization, and reduce reproduction of embedded terrorists offenders within the general population in our penal system, there will be need for extra security watch over terrorist detainees or inmates.
An ideal procedure would be to have a camera ready cell with video feed for each individual in a terrorism section, terrorism jail or terrorism prison with link to a headquarter or a command center.
Other measures needed to prevent or reduce radicalization of terrorist inmates, especially if we opt for terrorism annexes or terrorism sections being operated under one prison or jail, is giving these special inmates allowances for participation in activities like recreation, eating, treatment, or working but the question is will these activities be done within individual cell or in a shared manner?
In this regard there will be urgent need for new policies that will fully contain these allowances and follow them with standardized processes, objective criteria and formulations.
There will be need for standardized policies to reduce the possibilities of terrorist inmates trying to radicalize other prisoners or inmates or even staff who may be psychologically and morally vulnerable.
There will be need for a periodic psychologically based risk assessment for inmates as they slowly engage in short term or long term detention or approach the end of their sentence, especially if the individual is not on a life sentence.
This periodic behavioral and motivational evaluation should be done by a psychological scientist with training in personality, intellectual and visual-motor testing, these sorts of evaluations are necessary when relocating a detainee to another prison or preparing them to return to the society as well for general manageability.
In terms of managing risk from staff or workers within the prisons or detention centers psychologically based risk assessment should be randomly conducted on staff working in sensitive areas irrespective of the person's position.
In terms of telecommunication risk, there is also the need to block the detention areas for mobile phone coverage as to counter terrorist communication through the aid of a messed up, vulnerable, sympathetic or radicalized female or male staff.
In terms of human rights there is need for monitoring how transparent or secretive will our detention policies, documentations, procedures and practices be in regards to international or decent human standards in matters of the detention of terrorists.
In terms of visitors from the outside there will be need for a different counter-terrorism tactics as in fingerprinting all of them; as some of these visitors could have direct influence on the detainees and for this alone the authorities will need to learn new intelligence.
There will be need for strategic collaboration with the courts to allow for wiretapping of sermons, religious sessions or verbal communication between suspected or convicted inmates and their visitors.
There will be need for elaborate centers like hospitals, mental health units, and humane interrogation rooms as they will help engage the terrorists in positive coping acts or behaviors. But all these services must be provided under a strict command and in an environment marked with professionalism.
If we are to get into the business of special incarceration of terrorist we must face the fact that it will not be an easy journey. This should be a huge concern considering the reality that to this day; many advanced nations with all of their cutting-edge and innovative infrastructures and technologies are facing issues of terrorism including President Obama's administration as they all remain in a state of mix-up in terms of fully handling these extremely sensitive inmates in controlled settings.
Nevertheless we live in dangerous times, and as Africans we will have to play our part but with a different thoughtfulness. As Africans there is still that aspect of our culture that values the spirit of care and neighborliness, so if we are to operate a series or one full blown domestic terrorist detention center, we will need to launch an inclusive program designed to engage security convicts or inmates in psychological therapy, cultural treatment and in sequences of religious discourses and traditional dialogues. This does not preclude the need for sophisticated security precautions and punitive applications as long we do not take the road of torturing incarcerated terrorists, and if we do abuse them the donor or powerful nations will quarrel and may even censure us in our capacity as an emerging economy.
Foe now let us quickly be involved in working on many of our prisons as many of them are old, in dilapidating conditions, and even if the building are new or remodeled the issues of ineffective technology, interrupted electricity and poor water supply may continue thereby making the installation of cameras, video feeds, forensic investigative tools, intercoms and fire proof beds virtually complicated.
So President Jonathan and his administration ought to give proper thoughts and reasoning to many of these issues, challenges and noted recommendations in order to show readiness for concentrated incarceration of terrorist offenders, as this collective issue appears to be a test the Nigeria authorities wants to take on in regard to security questions.
John Egbeazien Oshodi, Ph.D., is an Abuja-based Forensic/Clinical Psychologist. [email protected] 08126909839