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WATCH: How a Saudi prison reshapes the lives of former extremists

Published: Updated:

It is hard to believe that a former extremist can ever recover from a life of violence and terror.

The Al Ha’ir prison located west of Riyadh jails high-security prisoners linked to terrorism-related charges.

Under the Time Management Program for Detainees, inmates are provided an opportunity to abandon their extremist ideology and instead redirect their focus on self-improvement and talent development.

While some foster their inner artists, others spend their time in gardening and in construction. Participating in such daily activities eases their path to reform and redirects them towards a regular life.

The prison also runs more intense programs designed for hardline extremists. A team of full-time psychologists, and even religious clerics, are appointed to counter the inmate’s radical thoughts.
The idea is to rehabilitate them back into the mainstream, preventing the tendency of an inmate to revert to extremism.

Saudi Arabia is looking beyond arresting extremists and just locking them in an isolated prison cell. The main aim now is to strive for long-term cognitive and behavioral changes among inmates leading to a complete repudiation of violence.

Some detainees worry that their extremist past will forever taunt their reputation within society even after rehabilitation. But the pragmatic reform strategy adopted at the Ha’ir prison has proven to be effective beyond the life behind bars.

This report is based on broadcasting episodes by Al Arabiya's producer, Mohammed Alyousei.