The Last Frontier: Prisons and Violent Extremism in MaliLiesbeth van der Heide, Julie Coleman J.D., LL.M 6 May 2020
As the number of violent extremist attacks in the Sahel has expanded rapidly in recent years, the number of Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs) in prison has grown in parallel at an alarming pace. This policy brief focuses on VEOs held in prisons in Mali, using primary data gathered during semi-structured interviews with VEOs conducted between 2016 and 2019. The brief provides a profile of the VEOs, including their backgrounds and, crucially, their reasons for engagement with terrorist groups. It also provides an overview of the prison structure, in order to illustrate the system for managing the VEO population, and identifies gaps or opportunities for improvement, particularly in relation to managing risk and implementing rehabilitation interventions. Finally, this brief provides recommendations for additional efforts needed to ensure that both Malian and international policymakers are able to tailor their responses to the growing issue of VEOs in a manner that will ensure that prisons become places that contribute to successful (eventual) reintegration of inmates, rather than places that exacerbate the problem of extremism and radicalisation.