Reintegrating extremist into society

January 30, 2015, University of St Andrews

The UK government's increasingly punitive response to those involved in terrorism risks undermining efforts to successfully reintegrate former extremists, according to research by the University of St Andrews.

The researcher behind the report - published online this month – says current policy proposals may hamper efforts to protect the public from future .

Report author, Dr Sarah Marsden, suggests that former terrorists – willing to renounce extremism - face significant barriers reintegrating into society. In response, Dr Marsden suggests that more individualised approaches could yield more successful, long-term results than increasing sentences or banning returning 'foreign fighters' from entering the country.

The new study challenges prevailing assumptions that personal ideology and beliefs are the most important features of terrorist offending, and highlights additional shortcomings in current thinking about how the West deals with those suspected and convicted of involvement in terrorism.

Dr Marsden, a Lecturer in Terrorism Studies at the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews, said,

"Ignoring the interconnected aspects of someone's life, their interpersonal relations and their interaction with wider society overlooks the complex interplay of internal and external influences on extremist behaviour."

Existing approaches to 'deradicalisation' tend to look for specific indicators of risk, such as someone having an attachment to an ideology justifying violence or accessing extremist material. However, this generally fails to consider the bigger picture, or take the holistic, individualised approach necessary to support reintegration, the researcher warns.

"Focusing heavily on deradicalisation ignores, or at best underplays, the context into which someone is being reintegrated. As well as a willingness by the former terrorist to renounce extremism, society has to be willing to allow them to reintegrate on a personally meaningful level."

Faced by increasing terrorist activities and attacks, the rehabilitation of extremists has fallen in and out of favour since it was first identified as a world-changing idea in 2008. With concern mounting regarding returnees from Syria and Iraq, plus the increasing number of people being released from prison following terrorism convictions, the need for establishing effective methods to reintegrate extremists into society is acute and growing.

At the end of their prison terms, people convicted of terrorism offences are generally released back into society under the supervision of probation services. Recent UK proposals to deal with the threat of returning extremists include forced attendance at deradicalisation programmes, strengthening Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM) and banning UK citizens from leaving the country or returning if they are suspected of involvement in terrorism.

Dr Marsden's research points to the benefits of a less punitive approach. "While work with people convicted of terrorism offences is in its infancy in this country and further afield," she continued, "efforts are being made to encourage disengagement from terrorism and instigate effective deradicalisation initiatives. Denmark has developed a particularly innovative approach, delivering social support to people returning from Syria to facilitate their reintegration back into society, which may prove to be a more promising alternative."

While Dr Marsden recognises it is difficult to address issues of reintegration in the wake of recent terrorist attacks, extremists convicted of training and facilitating will spend less time in prison than those convicted of more serious offences, and with their release will return to society.

"As with all offenders, it is the responsibility of the criminal justice system to not only punish and deter extremists, but also to rehabilitate," she commented.

The research suggests that an individualised approach to reintegration, which is sensitive to the impact of the wider social and political context, offers an alternative way of securing long-term desistance from extremism, while reducing the risk of further terrorist attacks.

In addition to researching the long-term outcomes of violence in the Middle East, Dr Marsden has carried out extensive research on individual processes of disengagement and desistance from militancy in the UK. Her latest paper echoes the difficulties faced by the majority of ex-offenders, such as finding employment, and reveals the unique challenges which former extremists face upon their release.

Dr Marsden concluded, "The increasingly vitriolic debate about Islamists not only puts up barriers to achieving positive relations between sections of our society, it also reduces the space where former extremists might be able to reintegrate and limits opportunities to challenge individual belief that violence is necessary to bring about political change."

Explore further: Spain arrests 10 for 'terrorist' Twitter, Facebook posts

More information: "Conceptualising 'success' with those convicted of terrorism offences: Aims, methods, and barriers to reintegration." DOI: 10.1080/19434472.2014.1001421

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21 comments

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julianpenrod
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 30, 2015
Remember when "terrorists" were defined as just having woken up one morning wanting to kill Americans, with no reason at all? Hopelessly, wholly delusional and homicidal? Fit only to be exterminated? When the tactics they used were equated necessarily with their ethic and morality? They were represented as necessarily incapable of being rehabilitated. Conditions with respect to the New World Order "false flag" fraud called "terrorism" may have changed for this new attitude to gain ground.
A point to consider.
If these individuals are so supposedly unprincipled and determined to kill Americans for no reason, why is it accepted that just a verbal renouncing of extremism "proves" they are no longer "terrorists"? They would say they were someone else to get into sensitive areas. Why are their words now being trusted?
kochevnik
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 30, 2015
why is it accepted that just a verbal renouncing of extremism "proves" they are no longer "terrorists"?
Renouncement means they were taken off the payroll
rp142
2 / 5 (8) Jan 30, 2015
Reintegration is the worst possible outcome. Terrorists are not simply criminals, they are the worst, most evil, inhuman monsters that have ever existed.

The typical extremist is acting out of a perverted view of religion where their god has given approval for their evil acts. Their god wants them to murder innocents, including specifically targeting women and children. They slaughter without mercy and with do not treat the victims with any humanity.

They have chosen not to behave as humans so should no longer be treated as human. Better to consider them as a disease that has to be eradicated. Their permanent removal from society is the only option to avoid this disease costing many more innocent lives.

kochevnik
3 / 5 (2) Jan 30, 2015
VietVet downvoted us, rp142. It would seem we insulted his friends at the State Department
rp142
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 31, 2015
Most people do not want terrorists released into society. The opinions of a misguided minority are of little concern. It is easy to see similarities to Nazi sympathisers and we need to accept that there will always be those that wish to stand on the side of the latest evil.

The article is about the UK, where there have been some disturbing terrorist attacks and there are likely to be more in the future, particularly if these fools get their way.
Losik
Jan 31, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Losik
Jan 31, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Skepticus
2 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2015
I am all for reintegrating terrorists, as well as ignorant ivory tower theorists into society. As good organic fertilizers, they are won't be wasted.
Losik
Feb 01, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Feb 01, 2015
support their homeland

Nothing wrong with supporting one's homeland.
But this usually means supporting one's home culture, not the govt or the state currently in power. Most don't emigrate for culture but for opportunity being denied by the current govt.
If conducted properly, an immigration policy would support exporting a culture of liberty back to the totalitarian regimes.
The Brits allowing Muslims to rape young girls and the US lack of enthusiasm for prosecuting 'honor' murders weaken western culture. Why do those in the West despise their culture so?
Humbled1
1 / 5 (6) Feb 01, 2015
Terrorists should not be reintegrated into society if they were above some minority age at the time of the crime.

It's bad enough for a kid to be brainwashed into killing people, it's another for a grown man or woman to bomb a bus or a train station.

The punishment should fit the crime.

Hey lady, do you want to marry that monster?

Wtf.

Give them a wife and free land too while we're at it eh?

They ought to cut off the guy's pecker and drag him around by what's left of his scrotum for a few days before they actually shoot him in the head, and put it on world wide television.

"This is what happens if you kill innocent women and children in the name of God."

I believe in God and I'll put my stamp of approval on it.

Something is wrong with sense of justice if release mulitple/mass murderers back to society.
Humbled1
1 / 5 (6) Feb 01, 2015
If you are old enough to vote you are definitely old enough to know that bombing a festival or a bus full of innocent, unarmed people is evil.

Hello? Voting age is supposed to represent the age of moral responsibility...

If it doesn't, then we need to increase voting age until it does reflect an age of moral responsibility.

Unfortunately several states are actually lowering the voting age.

No the truth is evil people are evil, and they need to be treated as evil.

Those two SoBs bombed Boston marathon unprovoked, without outside assistance other than some videos they found on the internet.

I don't get why a "trial" is even needed. They have him on video planting the bomb. Why is he still breathing?

Who pays for this stupidity, and there's literally hundreds like him in federal prisons on what amounts to a government welfare program for all the wrong peopel...
Humbled1
1 / 5 (7) Feb 01, 2015
"society has to be willing to allow them to reintegrate on a personally meaningful level."


No we don't honey, you're misguided.

My reintegration program:

"Murderer *kicks in face* You got five minutes alone to beg the real God of creation for forgiveness, and then we shoot you anyway just because we can never trust your murdering ass with so much as a fork or spoon in your hand, much less in society."

Then shoot him and get over with, and quit spending millions of tax payers money on evil bastards nobody seriously believes can be rehabilitated, and quit giving clueless women post-honorary degrees on studying things they're clueless about..

Good God this ridiculous.
Humbled1
1 / 5 (6) Feb 01, 2015
The new pope, whatever his name is?

Needs to be removed from his office after his comments regarding the Paris bombings.

He's is not qualified for his position.

He isn't qualified for any ministerial position. He practically condoned the attack, as though caricature against the murder and perversion is Islam was somehow grounds to justify more attacks.

Is everybody in Europe and the U.S. completely off their damn rocker lately?

Did literally everyone lose whatever brain they had in the past 15 or 20 years?

I don't get it.

It's like the whole of western civilization pushed a big magic "make us all into an idiots" button one day....
rp142
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 01, 2015
FYI, spamming comments is a great way to be added to ignore lists. Something that has become a very useful feature on this site.

The posts from ignored users become, "Comment posted by a person you have ignored ..." which is often the most intelligent thing they have ever said...
Sigh
4 / 5 (4) Feb 02, 2015
The typical extremist is acting out of a perverted view of religion where their god has given approval for their evil acts.
There are also political extremists: the FARC and right-wing death squads in Colombia, Tamil Tigers, Contras, Sendero Luminoso, Timothy McVeigh, Anders Breivik. A perception of divine approval doesn't seem to be necessary.

Better to consider them as a disease that has to be eradicated. Their permanent removal from society is the only option to avoid this disease costing many more innocent lives.
Ironically, that is exactly the mindset of extremists. You are one yourself. You differ from those you (verbally) attack only in whom you consider to be innocent and worthy of protection and whom you consider to be a disease to be eradicated.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Feb 02, 2015
Do 'liberals' want to integrate extremists for liberty into society?
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice...."
antialias_physorg
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 02, 2015
Most people do not want terrorists released into society.

There have been people who have renounced their affiliation to the Nazi party, the Klu Klux Klan, radical religious organisations (e.g. the IRA) etc.
Should these people not be given a second chance? I do think people are able to change their minds (after all: they changed their mind once before when they became radical). This doesn't exonerate someone from past crimes and also there is a certain amount of watchfulness appropriate.

But I think this is one area where we should take individuals one at a time and see if they are fit for reintegration (or not), and not just pass blanket judgement.

Better to consider them as a disease that has to be eradicated.

The thing about this is: It leads to a 'no true scotsman' type of witchhunt - and the 'free' society becomes the extremists.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2015
But I think this is one area where we should take individuals one at a time and see if they are fit for reintegration (or not), and not just pass blanket judgement.


Trust, but verify.
There was a Canadian who joined a radical Islamic group, changed his mind and worked undercover for Canadian intelligence.

During WWII, the US put German POWs in camps around the US. One was in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Many of these POWs never returned to Germany after the war.

But the US is returning POWs and the war is not over.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (5) Feb 02, 2015
Why do the 'liberals' use 'extremism'?

Because 'liberals' know if they use accurate, objective terminology to describe their position, they will be rejected.

The socialist extremists called themselves 'progressive' in the Wilson era. FDR plundered the term 'liberal' to differentiate his socialism from Hoover's.
'Liberals' plundered the term 'gay' for homosexuals to describe a life that was anything but gay.
The liberal use of 'extremism' promotes the milque toast moderation of Neville Chamberlain which enables socialist evil to seep in.
Islam, if practiced property, IS extremely intolerant of individual liberty just as socialism is extremely intolerant of individual liberty.
cjn
3 / 5 (2) Feb 02, 2015
In the book "On Combat", Dave Grossman notes the difficulty of Western societies with accepting violent members within their midst. As violence to others is generally anathema to the bulk of society, those who who deviate strongly from the norm receive a strong, negative, herd-like ostracization. For obvious reasons, it then becomes incredibly difficult to integrate these extremists back into society after they've demonstrated a willingness to commit violence to others in response to a stimuli which has not elicited a similar response from a majority of the population.

I think the key to reintegrating extremists is clearly demarcating the point at which the individual is willing to commit violence -differentiating violence for causes against socially accepted values (i.e.: Charlie Hebdo) vs. violence in the face of aggression (i.e.: foreign volunteers supporting the Kurds against ISIS).

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