Migration and Home Affairs

Identification of violent extremism and radicalisation in Finnish prisons

Prison and probation interventions, Training for first line practitioners
Target Audience:

The Criminal Sanctions Agency is a governmental organisation comprising a Central Administration Unit, three criminal sanctions regions in Finland and an Enforcement Unit. The Training Institute for Prison and Probation Services is also part of the Agency.


The Criminal Sanctions Agency has 26 prisons. Prisoners serve their sentence either in a closed prison (70 %) or in an open institution (30 %). Prisoners considered more likely to adapt to freer conditions than to conditions in closed prisons are placed in open institutions.


Vantaa prison

Vantaa Prison was established in 2002; it carries out pretrial detention and transports prisoners.


The prison has 185 prison places. More than 9 000 prison transportations were carried out in Vantaa Prison in 2011. The average number of prisoners in 2015 was 205. It also has a Unit of the Psychiatric Prison Hospital.


Personnel and activities

Vantaa Prison employs about 140 people. The prison has profiled its activities, particularly as raising motivation for prisoners, reducing drug abuse and training for imprisonment.


The project for identifying violent extremism and prison radicalisation was based in Vantaa Prison.


Project financing

Provided by the Criminal Sanctions Agency Central Administration.


Siltaniitynkuja 2
01260 Vantaa

Last update:


Project description:

Prisons are a fertile soil for radical thoughts. The terrorist attacks in Europe over the last six years (2012-2018) have reinforced the perception of the role of prisons as some kind of producer for the radicalisation that leads to terrorism.

In nearly every serious attack in Europe there has been an assailant or designer with a criminal background, and in many cases they are former prisoners. In prison and probation services, it is important to identify at the earliest stage radicalised prisoners and also those inmates who are possibly vulnerable to radicalisation processes.

The starting point for violent radicalisation in Finnish prisons was exposure to ideology with extremist features. Exposure is most commonly caused by another prisoner or prisoner group. Charismatic leaders among the prisoners are trying consistently to radicalise other inmates. Some of them act as leaders, some followers, and others use extremism in their own criminal pursuits.

The aim of this 18-month–long project was to detect and identify radicalisation among the prison population. Early detection prevented radicalisation processes and helped to identify individuals at risk. Prisons are closed and controlled environments, and therefore they offer special opportunities to detect radicalisation and make an effective intervention through assessment.

The approach: included prison sentence planning, risk assessment and safe placements. It also enabled efficient collection of information on imprisonment, which in turn facilitated cooperation across different networks, as well as information exchange within the correctional institution and with other actors.

Training for prison and probation staff was provided in most of the Finnish prisons and probation offices and for The Training Institute for Prison and Probation Services’ students.


  • Recommended practices for the Finnish Criminal Sanctions Agency, a prison and probation organisation. Guidelines for managing violent extremism and radicalisation in prisons.
  • Staff training.
  • A form for staff to use to report violent extremism.