Australia: Only one former prisoner, Mazen Touma has been deradicalised by anti-terror programs in our jails

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ONLY one jihadi inmate in Australia has been “deradicalised” in prison, despite millions of dollars being poured into weaning terrorism offenders off hate and violence.

The solitary success has raised questions about the effectiveness of these programs at a time when prison authorities are grappling with how best to deal with extremist inmates.

Federal and state governments face making the delicate decision of weighing when they can accept a terrorist has been deradicalised and deserves release, against the horror of putting an unreformed jihadist consumed with revenge back on the streets.

The Sunday Telegraph understands the Federal Government, responsible for granting the parole of terrorists convicted of commonwealth offences, has identified only one successful deradicalisation case on its books.

That prisoner was Mazen Touma, one of several men jailed over thwarted dual terror attacks in Melbourne and Sydney in 2005.

The men — many of whom are still locked up inside Goulburn’s Supermax prison — were arrested in what was regarded as Australia’s most sophisticated terrorism plot.

Touma, 37, who once professed his fondness at being compared to Osama bin Laden, was released in June this year after serving 12 years behind bars.

That prisoner was Mazen Touma, one of several men jailed over thwarted dual terror attacks in Melbourne and Sydney in 2005.

The men — many of whom are still locked up inside Goulburn’s Supermax prison — were arrested in what was regarded as Australia’s most sophisticated terrorism plot.

Touma, 37, who once professed his fondness at being compared to Osama bin Laden, was released in June this year after serving 12 years behind bars.

He was touted as a model reformed prisoner, someone who turned his extreme views around with the support of family, counselling and working throughout the prison compound.

While he is considered a success story, authorities said it is extremely difficult to judge if an inmate has unequivocally abandoned their extremist ways.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Department said an evaluation of rehabilitation programs in Australia found they have “achieved visible changes in many participants”.

Correctives Services NSW reviews an inmate’s case plan and uses “intelligence gathering” and psychometric tools — tests of personality, attitudes and motivations — in a bid to gauge whether a prisoner has progressed or not.

In Victoria this year, 22 inmates were taking part in the $6.4 million Community Integration and Support Program, which attempts to moderate a prisoner’s extremist views with the help of respected community imams.

But, in a move that hinted at a lack of confidence, the program’s partner — the Islamic Council of Victoria — withdrew its support this year. Victoria Police, which runs the program, said a “suitable partner” had been found to replace ICV.

The NSW equivalent is the Proactive Integrated Support Model (PRISM), a pilot program launched late last year.

Since then 15 inmates at risk of radicalisation — rather than those terrorists with deep-seated extremist ideological beliefs — have signed up to the voluntary program.

Outside of that, moderate religious leaders are brought in to the jails for guidance and prayer services in a bid to spread a moderate view of Islam.

Correctives and Counter-Terrorism Minister David Elliot said the terrorism threat would be a problem for government for at least a generation.

“It is not a unique challenge to Australia, and the NSW Government’s programs and policies align with world’s best practice,” he said.

“However, there is no silver bullet, and it will remain impossible to look into a person’s heart and truly see where their sympathies lie.”

A further $47 million was allocated to tackling prison radicalisation this year, some of which will go towards building a second Supermax jail.

It will be the exclusive home for all jailed terrorists in NSW.

Prison radicalisation expert Dr Clarke Jones said it was no surprise only one inmate had been successfully deradicalised.

Keeping all terrorism inmates — most of which are in NSW — locked up in the same compound rather than dispersed through the jail population meant there was less chance of change.

“I don’t think the design of the program, the concept of deradicalisation and the way they (terrorism inmates) are incarcerated is effective,” the Australian National University expert said.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Department said terrorist offenders still a risk after their sentence expired could be kept in custody under laws passed last year.

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  • Brett McS

    Not working. Replace it with a program of deracination.

  • Watchman

    The only effective deradicalisation is permanent conversion to another religion. The problem of this is that it has to be a true conversion, not just takiyya to fool the authorities.

    A muslim that doesn’t believe in violent jihad (“Fast Jihad”) might still believe in demographic jihad (“Slow Jihad”), or have six or more children, all of whom believe in Fast Jihad.

  • Dave

    Nothing deradicalises like a small hi speed piece of lead applied to the skull.

    • Exile1981

      I prefer 230 grains of lead.

  • Alain

    I’d say he is “deradicalised” until the next opportunity for jihad arrives.

  • just_one_Sewer Rat_guy

    Line them up and shoot them.

  • Maggat

    The surest method of deradicalization is a 7.62×39 @ approximately 12 grams of lead.

  • Bikinis not Burkas
  • sarah

    These programs are a joke. There is one solitary option for punishment in these cases – and its two in the back of the head. Without appeals, without delays, without fanfare. Convict in court and take them out the back. Done.

    Also, deport every single man woman and child who is remotely related to the convict, whether by blood or marriage. No exceptions, no delays, permanent ban of ever returning and confiscate all assets upon deportation.

    They are attached to family networks that are huge – get them all out of here if one of their relatives commit these offenses.

  • Budman

    Ban all islamic practices in jail. They are allowed to grow beards while other prisoners must have short hair and clean faces.