Pathways to Rehabilitation of Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs)
Results in Brief
Since 2012 UNICRI has been supporting Member States, upon request, in their efforts to build effective rehabilitation programmes for violent extremist offenders (VEOs) to ensure that prisons are not serving as hotbeds of radicalization.
Cooperation with Member States (Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, the Philippines and Thailand) has been established to develop different rehabilitation pathways according to the local context and needs.
Indonesia: in close coordination with the Directorate General for Corrections, a tailored risk-assessment tool for the assessment and classification of VEOs - known as LITMAS - was developed and tested. A specific training module on the adoption of the LITMAS was formulated and a pilot testing of the tool was carried out to validate its effectiveness in measuring the level of risk posed by inmates. With the assistance of national and international experts, a National Action Plan on the treatment of high-risk inmates, including VEOs, was developed as an instrument to be potentially adopted as part of the national counter-terrorism policy. National workshops and training initiatives were delivered to enhance capacities in managing, rehabilitating and reintegrating high risk inmates, including VEOs, based on international standards and good practices.
Jordan: in close coordination with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation a comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration programme for VEOs was developed. Introductory and advanced training sessions were held for psychologists and social workers, with a focus on: interviewing techniques of VEOs; risk assessment and classification, evaluation of the rehabilitation and reintegration programmes results. Training sessions for effective rehabilitation and reintegration of VEOs addressed to high-level prison managers were also delivered. Training courses involving prison managers, psychologists and social workers led to increased capacity-building and the exchange of information on good practices already employed at the national level, combined with the introduction of new practices from the international sphere and the creation of foundational networks at the practitioner level.
Kenya: UNICRI supported the Government of Kenya in countering violent extremism efforts by improving the capacity of national competent authorities in designing and implementing effective disengagement and rehabilitation programmes for VEOs and addressing the broad range of issues relating to radicalization in prison settings. In this regard, a workshop was organized to develop the competencies of national officials (from the National Counter Terrorism Center, the Probation Department and Maximum Security Prisons) on the technical and substantive aspects relating to the management of VEOs in order to prevent radicalization in prison settings. The initiative helped in clarifying a number of concepts and definitions and introduced participants to international good practices and essential aspects and factors to be considered in the development and implementation of effective R&R programmes and in particular: assessment of prisoners, management of VEOs population and good prison standards.
Mali: UNICRI implemented its work in Mali in close cooperation with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali and the National Directorate of Prison Administration and Supervised Education. A training programme targeting various stakeholders was delivered. The programme addressed different topics and included: a psychological training session for prison personnel on VEOs management; a capacity building workshop on radicalism and violent extremism for religious leaders and their role in preventing and countering radicalization; and a training session on risk assessment to enhance the capacity of prison staff managing violent extremist detainees. Interviews with national and international experts and with inmates were conducted in order to develop tailored and effective rehabilitation strategies and a comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon of violent extremism in the country.
Morocco: UNICRI worked with the Department for Prison Administration (Délégation Générale à l'Administration Pénitentiaire et à la Réinsertion – DGAPR) to develop tailored rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for VEOs in prison settings, with a focus on classification and risk assessment, training of prison staff and linkages between reintegration and aftercare programmes. A training course for psychologists working in the prisons was delivered. The Prison Administration of Morocco offered to contribute to the training activities by providing its expertise and personnel, who could work with prison personnel from Italy, providing support as cultural mediators or trainers.
The Philippines: UNICRI in cooperation with the Anti-Terrorism Council – Programme Management Center (ATC-PMC) of the Government of the Philippines, organized a three days technical workshop on “Enhance the capacity of prison and jail personnel and officials in handling and managing Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs).” The initiative aimed to provide technical knowledge addressing the needs of different types of professionals working within the correction system and particularly with violent extremist offenders. The workshop involved participants working in the area of training, education and rehabilitation from the following Institutions: Bureau of Correction (BuCOR) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
Thailand: UNICRI worked with the Ministry of Justice, Department of Corrections, to organize a series of activities, including a training on the treatment of VEOs for prison staff, workshops involving a multi-disciplinary group of prison experts (from the selected pilot prison) to develop programmes on prison rehabilitation, including a family strand and recreational strand both of which were implemented. Moreover, a culturally sensitive risk assessment index was developed and implemented with the aim of informing the development of future programmes for VEOs. A final meeting on the religious component involved R&R experts from Malaysia, prison staff and local Muslim religious leaders; the outcome of the meeting was a series of recommendations on actions to be taken to enhance inter-religious dialogue.
Pathway 1: Traditional approach
In absence of an established national rehabilitation and reintegration (R&R) policy, this approach foresees the design of a comprehensive R&R programme tailored to country needs and emerging challenges. This approach envisages the engagement of a multi-disciplinary team and consists of a series of steps following a consolidated methodology, with the aim of promoting the adoption of a national action plan.
Pathway 2: Towards changing attitudes by experiencing results
An adaptive and non-linear process towards a comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration program based on the research results that accompany and inform the development of relevant interventions.
Pathway 3: From framework to program approach
A consecutive pathway where framework and program development are strictly separated. The first focus lies in the development of a comprehensive and detailed framework and the second one lies in the implementation of the framework towards a comprehensive rehabilitation and reintegration program.
Pathway 4: Targeted approach
Based on needs assessments and gap analysis in several countries, a targeted approach is applied. This approach is an adaptive way to address specific gaps thus complementing the rehabilitation and reintegration programs in place. This approach is non-linear, starting with identified gaps instead of a general situation assessment. This approach is usually applied when rehabilitation and reintegration activities are already present and/or in the case of requests for specific support instead of a total systemic revision of the programs that are in place.
The theoretical basis of UNICRI’s rehabilitation technical assistance work derives from the theories of behavioural change. UNICRI R&R activities are implemented through the support of various methods and strategies, including:
- Desk and field research (including case study analysis), interviews and focus groups, and detailed country assessments.
- Expert group meetings, technical training and roundtable meetings with Member States.
- Development and implementation of pilot projects and national action plans.
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 applicable 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. Moreover, the work of UNICRI in this area is grounded in the provisions of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules). Both frameworks cover the importance of cooperation between and among all relevant public safety sectors in realizing the fair and humane treatment of all prisoners, including violent extremist offenders.
In the past 10 years, major initiatives that have been implemented addressed topics such as the drivers of radicalization, terrorist recruitment, countering and preventing violent extremism; foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs); violent extremism and the protection of juveniles and other vulnerable groups; 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; 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 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.