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Terrorist wing may lead to new security risks

01 April 2011

Detainees in the terrorist wing of the Extra Secure Facility in Vught are not being sufficiently prepared for their return to society. This could increase the risk of radicalization and recidivism, while the aim of the terrorist wing is to foil recruitment in prisons and to protect society against radicalization and terrorism. These are the conclusions in an evaluation report on the terrorist wing by researchers of the University of Groningen, conducted at the behest of the Ministry of Security and Justice.

The researchers investigated how the terrorist wing came into being, and whether it is effective against recruitment during detention. Their conclusions are rather critical. ‘The terrorist wing may temporarily foil recruitment’, according to sociologist Tinka Veldhuis, ‘but it is a drastic measure that is not always necessary and in the long term may create new security risks.’

Concentration of terrorism suspects

The terrorist wing was set up in response to political and social pressure. Terrorism was high on the political agenda after the murder of Theo van Gogh and the government was afraid that prisons would become hotbeds of radicalization. To prevent this, terrorism suspects were concentrated in an extensive secure wing with a strict regime. Other solutions were barely paid any attention, for example dividing terrorism suspects over different prisons. Whether a terrorist wing would have negative consequences in the long term was not investigated either. Veldhuis: ‘That’s understandable, given the social unrest at the time. However, nothing has been done to prevent the detainees falling into old patterns of behaviour after their release, and that may be very risky.’

Recruitment risk not proven

According to the researchers, the government has not demonstrated that the terrorist wing is essential to foil recruitment in prisons. It is simply not clear whether the inmates really do form a recruitment risk. As a result people are being placed into the strict terrorist wing regime without recruitment being foiled. And this with the main goal of the wing being to foil recruitment. According to the researchers, since the opening of the terrorist wing not a single detainee has been transferred there because he tried to recruit others to his cause. Veldhuis: ‘There are very few known cases of radicalization or recruitment in prisons, and none of them have ever led to a transfer to the terrorist wing.’

Risk of radicalization and recidivism

The researchers warn that the terrorist wing could in the long term create new security risks. The wing has a certain stigma and the strict regime has far-reaching consequences for the detainees. It could thus turn into a breeding ground for radicalization. Because no attention is paid to resocialization, the detainees also return to society insufficiently prepared. This increases the risk that they will fall back into old patterns of behaviour after release. Veldhuis: ‘People who have spent time in the terrorist wing are branded “terrorist” forever. If they are not properly prepared for their return to society, the chances of radicalization and recidivism may well increase after detention.’

Note for the press

Contact: Tinka Veldhuis, MSc, tel. 050-363 3060, e-mail:

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.31 p.m.
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