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Prevention of Radicalization to Violent Extremism in Prisons

Statement by Minister of Justice Jøran Kallemyr on Prevention of Radicalization to Violent Extremism in Prisons, 26 June 2019.

The Norwegian action plan against radicalization and violent extremism was launched in 2014. It is directed against all forms of extremism: extreme Islamism, right-wing extremism and left-wing extremism.

It is a very comprehensive action plan. In total, nine ministries have been involved in the making, follow-up and further development of the measures. The Correctional services is one of many areas of focus.

The action plan is dynamic. This means that existing measures can be adjusted, and new measures be developed – according to changes in the threat situation. Since the launch in 2014, several new measures have therefore been added.

Knowledge and awareness about radicalization and violent extremism amongst professionals in public sector is crucial to identify vulnerable individuals before they reach too far in a radicalization process. Norway has put a lot of effort in educating professionals so that they have relevant competence on observing early warning signs of radicalization.

The Norwegian Prison and probation service has therefore established several measures to enhance the competence on radicalization and violent extremism amongst their employees. This is included in the primary education, and is also given to more experienced employees.

The Norwegian Prison and probation service has established a Mentoring Program. This is a voluntary program to prisoners who serve sentences for violation of the terrorist acts and to prisoners who are considered vulnerable for being recruited to radicalization.

In Norwegian prisons, these inmates are spread out so that they will not be able to keep contact with each other. Off course, this procedure represent a risk that they instead will have the possibility to radicalize others. However, the staff are well trained to look for early warning signs of recruitment. They will be able to quickly move the prisoner to another department or prison if so needed.

The cooperation between the Prison and probation service, the inmate’s local municipality, the police and the national security service has been strengthened. They have developed a procedure on how to follow up prisoners in the target group before and after release.

At this point, eleven persons have been convicted for violation of the terrorist acts in Norway. We now have a situation where some of the remaining foreign fighters might return and be imprisoned, all though there is great uncertainties related to their current situation.

In addition, many others in the prison population represent a concern related to radicalization – regardless if they been convicted of violation of the terrorist acts. Radicalization in prisons will probably continue to be a challenge in the years to come.

It is therefore vital that we keep great attention to the importance of preventing radicalization and violent extremism in prisons. The aim must be to prevent new inmates from adopting these mindsets, and to rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have been radicalized.