Saudi penal policy

An interesting article from the Washington Post:

The Saudi government essentially puts each inmate’s family on welfare. The government gives them money for food, rent and school fees, and it pays airfare and hotel expenses for families to come visit – even for foreign prisoners whose families live overseas.

Escorted by guards, many prisoners (except those convicted of murder) are allowed to attend funerals and weddings of close family members, and they are given as much as $2600 in cash to present as a wedding gift.

After the presentation, we visited the Family Home, a hotel within the prison that is used to reward prisoners for good behavior. The hotel has 18 large suites, which can sleep as many as nine family members and have lots of fresh flowers, a well-stocked buffet and a playground for children.

Officials said the government spent $35 million last year on those perks.

“Just because someone is a criminal, we do not punish his family, too,” Ahmed said. “Our strategy is to take care of these people to make the community better. This is what Islam tells us to do.”

The majority of the 3500 inmates in the five high-security prisons have been convicted of terrorism-related offenses, including al-Qaeda attacks inside the Saudi kingdom, that happened before the rise of the Islamic State last year.

General Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the powerful Ministry of Interior, whose Mabahith secret police run the high-security prisons, said taking care of inmates’ families is part of the Saudi strategy of trying to rehabilitate radicals.

The Saudis have a long-standing program of placing those convicted of terrorism-related offenses in an intensive program of education and religious study designed to try to alter their thinking and behavior.

Inmates in the high-security prisons start with months-long in-depth courses inside the prisons. When they finish their sentence, they are transferred to one of two large rehabilitation centers, in Riyadh and in Jiddah, for further studies.

“If you lose these inmates when they are in prison, they will come out of prison more radical,” Turki said, adding that supporting their families also helps make sure they, too, don’t “fall into the hands of the terrorists.”

Turki said that about 20 percent of those who have gone through the rehabilitation program have returned to terrorism-related activities.

If the recidivism rate is only 20%, that’s pretty good. I like the focus on education and study to try and change their views – plus keepng them in touch with their families.

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