When De-Radicalizing Terrorists Works: Research Findings

When De-Radicalizing Terrorists Works: Research Findings
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Researchers will present and discuss initial findings from the most comprehensive study to date on the effectiveness of programs to de-radicalize captured terrorists – research that could ultimately inform public policy on the handling of prisoners in Guantanamo and Afghanistan.

The partially completed report, Prisons and Terrorism: Radicalisation and De-radicalisation in Countries, is a joint project of START – the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, based at the University of Maryland – and the ICSR, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, based at Kings College, London.

"This is a much bigger issue than most people appreciate," explains University of Maryland professor Gary LaFree, who directs START. "It’s a classic problem really. Prisons change behavior for both good and for bad. It’s difficult to detain prisoners forever, but when is it safe to let them go?"

The presentation is part of the ICSR’s Peace and Security Summit in New York City on Thursday, July 1. The final report – presenting data from prison de-radicalization programs in 15 nations – will be presented in Washington, D.C. in the fall.

"Initial results indicate that the programs can work, though probably not 100 percent of the time," LaFree adds. "Just as with regular criminals, individual and community supports help combat recidivism. But with terrorism and ideology there’s an added dimension. In general, it’s easier to de-radicalize when a movement is on the decline – when the battle seems lost, so to speak. Sri Lanka’s experience with the Tamil Tigers offers an example."

Thursday, July 1 during the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation’s New York City Peace and Security Summit.

The Peace and Security Summit is being held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City from June 30 to July 1.

Based on a survey of prison policies in 15 countries, Prisons and Terrorism: Radicalisation and De-radicalisation in Countries offers the most comprehensive study to date of the role prisons can play in radicalising people – and in reforming them. It is a joint project of START, the University of Maryland and the ICSR.

The report identifies trade-offs and dilemmas but also principles and best practices that will help governments and policymakers spot new ideas and avoid costly and counterproductive mistakes.

Among the key findings and recommendations:

* The current emphasis on security and containment leads to missed opportunities to promote reform. Prison services should be more ambitious in promoting positive influences inside prison, and develop more innovative approaches to facilitate extremists’ transition back into mainstream society.

* Over-crowding and under-staffing amplify the conditions that lend themselves to radicalization. Badly run prisons make the detection of radicalization difficult, and they also create the physical and ideological space in which extremist recruiters can operate freely.

* Religious conversion is not the same as radicalization. Good counter-radicalization policies – whether in or outside prison – never fail to distinguish between legitimate expression of faith and extremist ideologies. Prison services should invest more in staff training, and consider sharing specialized resources.

* Individual de-radicalization and disengagement programs – such as the ones in Saudi-Arabia, Singapore, Indonesia, and other countries – can make a difference. Their positive and outward-looking approach should serve as an inspiration for governments and policymakers everywhere.

* Even in the best circumstances, however, such programs complement rather than replace other instruments in the fight against terrorism. They work best when the political momentum is no longer with the terrorists or insurgents.

The report was made possible by funding from the governments of Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It is based on the research of sixteen of the world’s leading terrorism experts. START is funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the University of Maryland.

Media interested in interviewing START Director Gary LaFree about this report can call him directly on his cell phone at 301-518-2491. LaFree is in New York for the ICSR Summit.

For more information, contact Neil Tickner at 301-405-4622 or Dave Ottalini at 301-405-4076.

ICSR Contact: call +44 (0) 207 848 2098 or email to: mail@icsr.info

The University of Maryland is a global community whose scholars, staff and students have a wide-ranging impact around the world. Whether it’s research, study abroad, doing good works, working with international communities locally, training international students or pursuing collaborations with governments and institutions of higher education, Maryland embraces the global community and engages the world like no other.

Download the Report :http://icsr.info/publications/papers/1277699166PrisonsandTerrorismRadicalisationandDeradicalisationin15Countries.pdf