Promoting Social Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs)
The experience of UNICRI in supporting Member States to build effective rehabilitation programmes for violent extremists has highlighted the need to further enhance reintegration measures within and beyond custodial settings.
Reintegration is indeed a necessary component of any comprehensive strategy to counter violent extremism (CVE) as well as a crucial element to build more resilient communities and reduce recidivism. Reintegration initiatives should begin when the offender is still in custodial settings to prepare for release and shall envisage different measures, ranging from personal empowerment to the development of employment opportunities and preventive incentives, to reduce social alienation and the likelihood of re-offending. In addition to the work conducted with the offender, reintegration requires also the strong engagement of communities to bridge the gap between inside and outside prison, to promote a change in perceptions and social cohesion. Finally, reintegration efforts must be combined with interventions aimed to address laws and policies, and the structural and community dynamics leading to radicalization.
Key aspects and recommendations
Through its experience on the field and thanks to the inputs collected from Member States and experts from different areas of work, UNICRI has identified some of the key aspects and recommendations linked to the rehabilitation and reintegration (R&R) of VEOs, with a particular focus on the re-entry of individuals into the community:
• Preparing VEOs for their transition from prison to the community.
• Mapping the re-entry of VEOs to identify existing and potential resources at the local level.
• Conducting individualized risk and needs assessments and ensuring continuity of support after release.
• Engaging families in the reintegration and rehabilitation process. • Strengthening the role of religious leaders and psychologists.
• Promoting and creating a welcoming environment at the community level to facilitate the social reintegration of VEOs.
• Engaging civil society organizations in R&R programs.
• Supporting the role of prison staff, law enforcement and probation officers in the R&R process of VEOs.
• Defining supervision and monitoring measures.
• Enhancing multi-agency cooperation.
Based on the key aspects and recommendations identified, UNICRI has developed a set of priority actions for strengthening VEOs reintegration efforts:
Pillar I: Assessing prisons and community capacities in supporting VEOs in their re-entry into society (research/assessment).
Pillar II: Developing an action plan on the social reintegration of VEOs, bridging the gaps between custodial and non-custodial settings (action plan).
Pillar III: Establishing/strengthening networks among the stakeholders responsible for supporting VEOs’ re-entry into the community.
Pillar IV: Building the capacities of relevant actors involved in designing, developing and implementing prison and community-based programs, targeted to both VEOs and communities, with the aim to promote and sustain social reintegration.
Pillar V: Improving coordination and information sharing among the stakeholders involved in the monitoring and supervision of VEOs after release (prison administration, probation services, communities, intelligence, law enforcement)
Pillar VI: Raising awareness on the importance of creating a receptive environment to facilitate the social reintegration of VEOs.
As part of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) of the United Nations, UNICRI contributes to the implementation of coordinated and coherent efforts across the United Nations system to prevent and counter violent extremism. In this framework, the Institute supports Member States in preventing and countering terrorism appeal and recruitment into violent extremism by strengthening national and regional capacities. UNICRI has also developed and fostered considerable methodologies in the area of rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremist offenders, and the Institute plays a key role in supporting Member States in translating the generalized good practices identified in the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum (GCTF) Rome Memorandum, which specifically addresses the rehabilitation needs of incarcerated violent extremists, into national policies.
In the past 10 years, major initiatives implemented addressed topics such as the drivers of radicalization, terrorist recruitment, countering and preventing violent extremism; foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs); the nexus between FTFs and vulnerable juveniles; civil society engagement; security planning for major events; terrorism and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear risk mitigation; private and public partnerships for the protection of vulnerable targets; the nexus between organized crime and terrorism; the uses of the Internet for terrorist purposes (including cyber-terrorism); online hate speech; juvenile justice and children diversion from judicial proceedings; rehabilitation and reintegration programs for violent extremist offenders (VEOs) in prison settings.
Within the framework of its mandate, UNICRI has delivered tailored capacity-building programs; action oriented research; mentoring services and technical assistance to Member States grounded on good practices and solid evidence based methods in alignment with the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.