Citing security issues, the Danish Prison Service has shut down an online network used by inmates in prisons and secured facilities in a bid to stop the spread of extremist material in the country's jails, the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported.
The most drastic of them involves switching off the secure network SK-net, which gives prisoners monitored online access.
The decision was reportedly made by the prison regulator after extremist material was found on four PlayStation consoles at a secure prison in Nyborg earlier this year. Despite the fact that the gaming consoles were reportedly not directly connected to the internet, the Danish prison regulator believed the material to have been transferred to them via USB drives. In response to the findings, the Prison System also removed 300 PlayStations from the most secured departments of the closed institutions.
According to Lars Rau Brysting, the head of security with the Danish prison regulator, while the agency has long mulled switching off SK-net, the unpleasant discoveries on the gaming consoles prompted an immediate decision.
The decision to block inmates' access to SK-net will affect all prisoners, not only those being closely monitored over the danger of being radicalized. One consequence of the decision is the cancellation of online study programs and exams inmates currently enjoy in Danish prisons.
According to Frederik Jepsen, a board member with the charity Landsforeningen Krim, which offers legal support to prisoners in Denmark, the decision to switch off "prison Internet" has left many inmates disappointed at the prospect of being unable to pursue current educational programs.
Jepsen, who called for caution with actions that could constitute collective punishment, instead of switching off SK-net indiscriminately, ventured that the Prison Service should have taken up individual assessments of inmates to determine whether they are suitable to access "prison internet." Lastly, Jepsen argued that many prisoners were complaining that they are unable to occupy themselves with no internet.
Kim Østerbye, the chairman of the Danish Prison union, argued that the Prison Service was creating a more conflict-laden environment by eliminating the system of privileges as a compliment to prisoners with good behavior.
In 2015, the Danish Justice Ministry evaluated the efforts against radicalization in Danish prisons, identifying the risk of radicalization via the secured network as "minimal."
"Since 2015, however, a lot has been happening in the field of technology, and the Prison Service has also become more focused on enforcing security. Therefore, we are just taking our precautions. It's not just about radicalization but also other things that the network shouldn't be used for," Lars Rau Brysting said. While admitting that the situation may be frustrating for the inmates, he stressed that safety considerations always go first.
Denmark, a Scandinavian nation of 5.7 million, has a prison population of roughly 3,500. Using SK-net, inmates could access hundreds of different webpages that had been approved by the Prison Service.