How Prison Officers can help Rehabilitate Far-Right Extremists

A Prison Officer has the duty of care over individuals placed upon the Wing—but how does that duty of care change when faced with a Far-Right Extremist Prisoner? The relationship between Prisoner and Prison Officer can play an important contributing method in rehabilitating the Far-Right Extremist. In this article, we explore just how Prison Officers can make the difference needed in this journey of Rehabilitation.

Imagine, Prisoner A was reaching the end of his sentence—having been sentenced to over 4 Years in Total—and found himself inside a British gaol. At this stage of his sentence, Prisoner A had renounced Far-Right Extremism overall but still found engagements with people of colour quite difficult—given his past and the external community knowledge around this. Quickly, it was identified by Prison Officers that Prisoner A needed some additional support.

The Wing Custody Manager identified that restorative justice would be an appropriate measure to take between Prisoner A and a Black Prisoner who held a grievance with Prisoner A. Having placed the two men together in a Room, the custody manager (CM) moderated the session to ensure that both parties were respectful and understanding—what happened next was quite remarkable.

The Black Prisoner—who we will call Prisoner B—had a grievance with Prisoner A, because of his Far-Right past and started to treat Prisoner A with aggression. When Prisoner A picked up upon this, he was quite unsettled and sought further guidance from a Life Prisoner and ‘Wing Rep’, who was able to alert the Prison Officers towards this situation. Having put the Two Men together in the Room, anything could have happened—but properly moderated by the CM  the best thing happened, which was the agreement made between the two Prisoners.

As the Former Far-Right Extremist, Prisoner A, Sat and listened to the testimony of Prisoner B—who had been subject to many Racist incidents over his lifetime—a depth of understanding with established in the mind of Prisoner A, who openly empathized with Prisoner B. At times, this Restorative Justice session became quite heated, and this is where the CM stepped in to ensure that it was properly coordinated.

In turn, Prisoner A was able to explain the reasons to Prisoner B as to why he got involved with Far-Right Extremism and Prisoner B was able to draw parrels between his lifestyle and pattern of offending which had led to his incarceration. This remarkable situation made two people who were opposites realise that actually, in between them was very little difference.

As a result, Prisoner A was able to understand the hesitance and suspicion of Prisoner B, and Prisoner B accepted that Prisoner A had turned his life around and renounced the Far-Right—but also understood the reasoning behind his joining of an Extremist organisation.

This intervention would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the CM and his ability to recognise the importance and effect of a restorative justice session—something which ultimately went on to benefit both Prisoners. The result was that Prisoner A and Prisoner B became friends afterwards and watched out for each other on the Wing in equal measure. Quite remarkable that given in the weeks before, both Prisoners had wanted to enact aggression on each other, making the Wing a very hostile place.

If Prison Officers can spot the correct and appropriate moment for an intervention of this kind—between Far-Right Prisoners and People of Colour—then overall, we believe that this could be a highly useful and veritable solution to the rehabilitation of the offender in Question. While it may not always be appropriate to hold intervention like this, but for the most part we often find that this is down to the utmost discretion of the Prison Officer who would hold the balance in this situation.

This is why Exit believe that with the right training and support, Prison Officers can become rehabilitation champions, assisting far-right prisoners, see other people’s points of view, understand why some prisoners maybe aggressive to them and be assisted to walk away from extremism.

Seeking new answers, we believe it is time to utilise those who spend the most time with prisoners to show them there is a path beyond extremism and that with a little help people will walk away from an extremist lifestyle, all they need is a little help.

We believe that by opening up different worlds to far-right prisoners, it would surely be a great help to develop the understanding that the best way to forward, it to start developing  this process of Restorative Justice inside prison now and seek to rehabilitee prisoners with others inside before people come out.

Understanding there may be some potential safety issues and also that many prison officers have many demands on them, the more we look at different approaches now, the safer our society will be in the future.

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