FACT SHEET: Structured Sentence Management for Violent and Extremist Prisoners in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Speeches Shim

This USAID program promotes a system to contain and prevent the spread of radicalism and violent extremist beliefs in BiH prisons and rehabilitate and reintegrate previously radicalized prisoners into society upon their release. The Council of Europe implements this comprehensive two-year $1 million project, which is co-funded equally by USAID and the UK government.

Like other countries in the Western Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) continues to face major challenges in becoming a stable and prosperous country. These include socio-economic gridlock, perceived corruption within a wide range of sectors, unresolved legacies from the war, and disenfranchised youth. These push factors have created conducive conditions for the proliferation of extremist ideologies, directly influencing communities throughout the country, where small yet vocal and active groups have developed around extremist ideologies and led to an increase in radicalization.

A dangerous expression of this radicalization manifested in 2015-2016, when more than 350 BiH citizens left to fight in foreign conflicts, a very high number relative to the size of Bosnia’s population of 3.5 million. Between 2016 and 2018, about 50 of these foreign terrorist fighters returned to BiH; 23 of them were prosecuted, but many of the sentences were light. BiH’s prisons, like many in Europe, are recognized hotbeds of extremist beliefs and ideologies. Testimony from correctional authorities at the Sarajevo Prison and the Zenica Criminal Correctional Institution suggests that extremist networks in these facilities have expanded over the last several years. 


Through its program “Structured Sentence Management for Violent and Extremist Prisoners,” USAID and the UK government support relevant authorities to contain and prevent the spread of radicalism and violent extremist beliefs in BiH prisons and to identify methods for the eventual reintegration of previously radicalized individuals into society.

The program assists the country’s three main ministries of justice – BiH and both entities (the Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska) – to develop and fully implement standardized operational procedures in prisons to deal with violent and extremist prisoners. The program provides training for selected prison staff to deal with such prisoners, including reintegrating them into the community upon release. Assistance also helps mitigate adverse effects that radicalized prisoners might have on other prisoners, and reduces extremism and violence in the prisons themselves. 


Dealing with violent and extremist prisoners requires a multidisciplinary approach.

• USAID funding supports the development of a strategic policy document to facilitate implementation of operational procedures in BiH prisons and multi-agency cooperation. USAID assistance will also train BiH authorities and prison managers how to identify and select qualified/trained staff for high-security units. 

• UK government assistance will help BiH develop and implement a Case Management System for violent and extremist prisoners; complete a risk assessment tool; and develop specific treatment programs for violent and extremist prisoners.  


More than 50 persons from the Ministries of Justice, prison units, law enforcement agencies, and social welfare services are now involved in coordinated project activities. The process for drafting the prison staff management strategy has begun with an assessment of the situation, needs, and recommendations for improvement. A manual for the Case Management System for violent and extremist prisoners is in the draft stage.


Last updated: October 10, 2019

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