Classification of prisoners for terrorism and extremism (on materials of field research conducted in prison in 2017)

Abstract. One of the most pressing problems for countries faced with radicalization is the deradicalization of those convicted of terrorism and extremism (TaE). The need for classification by category is justified by the fact that those convicted of TaE are heterogeneous and monolithic (different ideology, organization, level of religious knowledge, etc.); usually distinguished by aggression; leaders and ordinary people. In different countries there are different classifications; and in accordance with this work is carried out in different ways. Classification of convicts for terrorism and extremism allows targeted work to carry out on de-radicalization and risks, to track changes in the behavior and worldview of individuals convicted of TaE.

One of the challenges for modern Kyrgyzstan has been the situation in places of detention among those convicted of terrorist and extremist activities. The increase in the number of this contingent, most of whom have served their sentences without changing their beliefs, is a cause for concern. Deradicalization activities in places of detention are extremely difficult and the measures taken are not systematic. Moreover, large-scale studies of the state and changes in the situation among those convicted of terrorism and extremism have not been undertaken before and the study was mostly fragmented[1] due to the relative novelty of the problem. Increased attention to the problems of de-radicalization was manifested and is associated with the departure and return of Kyrgyz citizens from the war zones in Syria and Iraq. Measures in this direction began to be taken almost only in 2017 with the advent of the State system of execution of punishment (SSEP), Active attempts are being made to conduct a systematic assessment of the existing problems, to develop priority and strategic steps to work with this category of prisoners.

In these circumstances, the assistance provided by the relevant international organizations to the SSEP for the introduction of foreign experience in Kyrgyzstan and training of employees of the penal system of the country in international standards for the provision of material and technical assistance is very useful.

At the same time, it seems essential to properly adapt international experience to local conditions. To this end, it is advisable to conduct a number of studies and a comprehensive analysis of the situation among those convicted of terrorism and extremism. In our opinion, along with the efforts of international organizations in this direction, it is extremely important to carry out such work by our own national experts, who have access to confidential information.

In particular, international experience shows the need to classify convicts for a differentiated approach in the organization of measures for deradicalization, as well as the development of methodology and organizational mechanisms for the deradicalization of radicals in Kyrgyzstan. This field study[14] was aimed at a comprehensive study, analysis of the situation and changes in the situation with convicted terrorists and extremists for the application of the classification. The main focus was on the classification of this category of convicts in closed institutions. It should be noted that this first attempt at classification was with the use of five tools [2] [3], i.e. theological survey (questioning); interviews with convicts; interviews with employees (their observation of changes); psychological technique;s and in some cases the analysis of documents (court decisions). An integrated approach to classification improves the reliability of information and the efficiency of deradicalization activities. In addition, despite its complexity, the tools of classification require systematic improvement; and this cannot be static itself, since convicts in closed and open institutions differ and the use of the same classification because of their heterogeneity is sometimes not permissible for them. This in turn suggests that the classification should be flexible, expanded, systematically updated as the contingent of convicts is updated and classified and can move from one category to another, etc.

The total number of respondents convicted of terrorism and extremism in the institutions of the SSEP was 276 respondents. Of these:

  • closed institutions (reformatory colony, pretrial detention center) – 160,
  • criminal inspections – 60,

- on colonies-settlements – 56.

In addition, 37 prisoners convicted under other articles, as well as 31 employees of SSEP institutions were interviewed.

At the same time, surveys, theological questionnaires and psychological testing were conducted by members of the working group with the entire contingent of convicts under the relevant articles on a voluntary and confidential, anonymous basis.

Based on the objectives of the study, the following methodology and research tools were used.

In particular, various factors (biographical, psychological, religious, political, etc.) affecting this work have been studied to develop a basic classification for the organization of work in the penitentiary system with convicts for tie, and appropriate tools have been developed in the form of:

– questionnaire-interview with several blocks of questions, providing for the reconstruction of the life of the convict, identification of religious identity, motives and circumstances of involvement in TаЕ, stay in prison and General political knowledge;

– In particular, to develop a basic classification for organizing work in the penitentiary system

with convicts for TаE, various factors (biographical, psychological, religious, political, etc.) that affect this work were investigated, and corresponding tools were developed as:theological questionnaire, in order to test the method of determining with its help the level and direction of religious knowledge, the degree of radicality of religious and political views and the possible risks of continuing TаЕ activities;

– psychological tests, to study the current state of the convict and his General personal characteristics, for possible use of the results in the work on deradicalization;

– questionnaire-interviews for the staff of the institutions, in order to obtain additional information on the contingent of interest and to improve work with them.

In addition, the study aimed to examine the current state of the SSEP system, related to factors and risks of negative trends in detention facilities, including the possibility of merging or closing terrorist, extremist and criminal elements, as well as the possibility of a negative impact on the staff of institutions of convicted extremists.

In order to study the category of convicts we are interested in, taking into account the experience of other countries, we propose the following classification according to the degree of ideolo- gization that encourages violence:

– Militant extremists.

– Ideological extremists.

– Accessory after the fact.

– Repentant.

Currently not able to be defined accurately.

As noted above, the classification is based on the analysis of the materials of interviews with convicts and staff of institutions, theological questionnaires, psychological testing, as well as information from the place of serving the sentence of the convict and taking into account the nature of the crimes committed (articles, type and term of punishment, relapse).

The classification methodology was developed by the working group on the basis of the qualifications and experience of each expert and the collective discussion. At the same time, no claim is made as to the absolute reliability of the results, as it is based on the subjective nature of the researcher and the subjective features of the prisoner's personality. However, quite correct and no doubt necessary to the operation and performance of units of the SSEP, as only judicial materials shall not encompass personality traits, including ideological, political beliefs and religious knowledge, history and psychological state, attitude to the conditions of confinement.

First of all, in the development of the classification and its criteria, the task was to identify the most dangerous part from the whole category under study, in terms of the recurrence of their criminal, violent activities directly in places of detention and after their possible release. This category of convicts we called "Militant extremists".

Among the characteristic features of the selected:

Recognition in interviews and theological survey by the convict of the possibility of violence (armed Jihad) against the state, society, law enforcement agencies, Shia, Jews, the accusation of unbelief, Muslims are not observant party etc.

The fact that the convicted person used armed violence in the past, his participation in terrorist attacks, murders, robbery, armed conflicts abroad, etc. for ideological reasons. It was established by us from our own confessions of respondents, and information from other friends with him convicted, as well as articles on which he was convicted (article 226, 375...).

Disobedience and lack of respect for the laws and prison rules combined with a strong desire to dominate and manipulate other prisoners. It was established taking into considaration:

Answers to certain questions of the interview concerning the relation of the prisoner to the state, power structures, SSEP at the time of poll.

Committing recidivism of crimes and other offenses during the period of punishment.

Characteristics of the prisoner on the part of the administration and employees of the institutions where he stays.

Information of operatives about the Respondent's active terrorist activity in the past or attempts to continue it in places of detention.

A striking example of a representative of this category has been sentenced to life imprisonment (LI) S. K., who in an interview directly voiced the need for "Jihad" in relation to all those who do not adhere to radical religious and political ideology.

It must be recognized that, with regard to individuals, it is difficult to uncover their belligerent aspirations. During the study we were faced with cases where the respondents answered the interview questions and questionnaires consistently, consistent, and psychologically convincingly, proving his innocence in relation to terrorism and extremism. However, additional information received from operatives testified to the contrary. More often, such individuals are the most dangerous and intelligent terrorist leaders.

For example, sentenced to LI K. I. interviews showed the maximum consistency of the allegations of his innocence of the crimes of a terrorist nature, as well containing no contradictions; and was convincing. In addition, his personal history, level of education and intellectual level correspond to a person from the intelligentsia. At the same time, the articles under which he was convicted twice, and the comments of the operatives of the pre-trial detention center of SSEP and SCNS against him indicate that this person is a very dangerous recidivist who managed to play an important role in the attempt to organize terrorist activities outside the zone. An indirect sign indicating K. I.'s involvement in terrorist activities is the result of psychological examination, according to which he, despite the long term of serving his sentence and the disappointment he demonstrates with life, is a strong personality with leadership qualities.

The next category of convicts – "Ideological extremists", was proposed on the basis of the presence among them of persons who are clearly less dangerous, namely, reluctant to commit violent acts, but at the same time have strong extremist beliefs.

In particular, this category includes a significant part of the members of the religious extremist organization (REO) "Hizbut-Tahrir" who do not support violent methods of achieving religious and political goals until the "world Islamic state" (Caliphate) is created. However, its adherents in closed institutions usually openly acknowledged their participation in a proscribed organization and hostility towards a secular state.

In addition, this category includes some other persons who adhere to and spread the ideology of radical Islamism (the establishment of the Caliphate, the introduction of Sharia, hostility and rejection of secular norms of social life, other religions and madhhabs). For example, the convicted Т.К. in his interview said " avoid terrorist acts in the Kyrgyz REPUBLIC, the religious authorities of Kyrgyzstan need to turn to the leadership of ISIS and Al-Nusra (as a Caliph) that in Kyrgyzstan there is no harassment of Muslims". Thus, it actually justifies the objectives (establishment of a Caliphate) and activities of the listed terrorist organizations, calling for their recognition.

The analysis of the materials obtained shows that there is another category of prisoners, which we call "Accomplices indirectly involved". The main feature of belonging to it is the lack of radical ideologization of the convict and his lack of intentions to continue terrorist or extremist activities in the future. At the same time, such a person could previously take part in terrorist and extremist activities. For example, he went out or had the intention to go to a war zone, but did not have time to do it, provided aiding and abetting assistance to terrorists, etc.

The absence of radical ideologization will be determined by our answers during the interview and to the questions of the theological questionnaire.

An example is M. U. According to his recognition: "... went to daavat for 3 days in Aravan... charge me from daavat was enough for 1 month, but after 15 days the charge fell... because I gamble in cards, I know how to cheat... in prison life is interesting, here make fair decisions... I want to Europe in Germany, I want to learn English".

The majority of those convicted of attempting to enter combat zones abroad are young people, and the fact that they did not have time to commit terrorist acts and do not have strong radical ideological convictions makes it possible to identify this group and apply certain methods of deradicalization to them. At the same time, there are reports that some persons who returned from Syria, consciously surrendered to the authorities and went to cooperate, disbelieving in the jihadist ideology and not wanting to continue to participate in terrorist activities, while fearing for their safety in the face of possible threats of former associates.

Another typical example of a convict of this category is Sh. M. Analysis of the data obtained in relation to him suggests that he is close to the criminal world in nature, preferences and behavior, but previously assisted a group of terrorists by providing them with housing. In places of detention openly, actively conflicted with the administration of institutions and convicted of terrorism and extremism, but, in the close environment of the latter, gradually began to get closer to them. It seems that such persons should not be treated as "militant or ideological extremists" and kept in the same cells.

The main goal of preventive work with convicts for TaE is their deradicalization. Sometimes, as a result of the purposeful work of the administration and under the influence of internal motives (fatigue from prison life), some people depart from extremist ideology. This category we called "Repentant". Criteria for attribution to it are:

Recognition of their crimes in the past and an open rejection of ideology and organization,

Willingness to cooperate with law enforcement agencies,

Correspondence of other external manifestations of behavior and beliefs to sincere repentance.

An example of such a convict is T. V RC-27, who spent two months in Syria as part of the international terrorist organization (ITO) "Jabhat al-Nusra", detained and sentenced to four years in prison. During the interview, he spoke in detail about his involvement in terrorist activities, admits his guilt and repents. The motives of departure and the behavior of this person also testify in favor of his sincere repentance.

It is important to work with this category of persons in a timely and effective manner in order to consolidate their correction and, possibly, to use them in the deradicalization of other convicts, as well as in preventive activities outside the places of detention (for example, by involving them in video interviews).

The latter category of prisoners is "Not able to be defined accurately." The criteria for assignment of convicts are:

– Full or pre-emptive denial of participation in Tie activities, while the court's verdict indicates the opposite, and during the interviews elements of radical religious and political beliefs are revealed,

– The absence in the results of surveys of manifestations of obvious extremism in the presence of signs of conscious concealment of radical ideology,

– Refusal to participate in the study.

In the course of the study, respondents often refused to face charges against them and court- proven charges of involvement in terrorist crimes. While it is impossible to exclude the possibility of investigative or judicial error in relation to them, we proceeded from the assumption that it is no more than the average for all categories of crimes. In most cases, convicts try to justify themselves consciously or unconsciously.

Thus, among those who did not recognize their participation in the tie Were persons convicted under "heavy" articles and sentenced to long terms.

In addition, in the responses received from representatives of this category, quite often there is a contradiction, a deliberate refusal to answer many questions related to the identification of radical political and religious beliefs, the presence of certain radical statements. Some refused to participate in the study at all. All this may indicate attempts to conceal their true views.

There is an assumption that a number of representatives of the studied contingent have unstable views, since they poorly represent radical ideology. They received almost no General education, as many of them did not even finish primary school or did not study well at all.

At the same time other clarifying information (from the administration, employees of institutions) in respect of such persons could not be obtained.

Accordingly, it has been difficult to draw conclusions about their true ideological commitment and the level of risk they pose, and therefore they fall into this category.

At the same time, it cannot be excluded that some of them had an indirect relation to terrorist activities, without being ideologized and without realizing all the consequences, and are now trying to deny their involvement completely. That is, in further study it is possible to distinguish among them "accomplices indirectly involved".

Also to "not amenable to definition at the moment" we carried a number of persons who were earlier obviously from among militant, but at the moment for various reasons lost open aggression to what interview and psychological examination testifies. Among them, for example, B.A. in PTDS-1. Results of the test: regression, inhibition. Possible auditory hallucinations or sensitive about criticism of others about themselves. Bad orientation in space. Focus on the goal, taking some order. Rejection of reality. Search for self-affirmation and contacts. Anxiety associated with thinking or imagination. Tendency to impulsive behavior. Volatility in behavior. Lack of resilience, perseverance, perseverance. The feeling of lack of psychological warmth at home. Primitive aggression. The possibilities of a bad personal organization. Refusal to really look at things. Fear. Inherent verbal aggression. Most verbal activity (loquacity).

Systematic work should be carried out with this category of convicts, aimed at further separating representatives of the above categories from it, in order to more accurately determine approaches to working with them.

At the same time to "Not be currently accurate enough definition," extremists need the most attention due to the presence hidden among them "Violent extremists", which can carry threat of terrorist intentions. On the other hand, some of them may refer to "Complicit, indirect complicit" extremists and easier to perceive the impact in terms of their deradicalization.

It is necessary to emphasize once again that the definition of convicts in a particular category is not infallible and unchanged and can change over time. There is a need to systematically and in different ways to clarify, recheck and correct the information and conclusions concerning the contingent under study. At the same time, the use of this classification can serve as one of the rather useful evaluation tools, within the framework of the methodology of work on the deradicalization of convicted extremists.



  1. Эсенаманова Н.С., Вейцель Р.В. «Хизб ут-Тахрир» в Кыргызстане: состояние и тенденции. Бишкек. 2015.
  2. It should be noted that Algeria uses a tool with 180 questions for classification. See below for more details: Handbook for work with prisoners from among militant extremists and prevent engendering violence radicalization in prisons. UN, New York, 2017 P. 45.
  3. In addition, domestic researchers proposed the following gradation - the lack of radicalization, extremism, violent extremism, terrorism. See: In the report on the results of the monitoring of correctional institutions of the penitentiary system of the Kyrgyz Republic on work with convicts for crimes of a terrorist nature and extremist orientation. Bishkek, 2018. P. 48-49
Year: 2019
City: Almaty