Reintegration of Radicalized Offenders

Extremism is back in vogue. Conflicts across the world have metastasized into a slurry of civil wars, insurgencies, and external interventions. The humanitarian disaster in Syria and Iraq spans at least five different actors, including Hezbollah, Iran, Turkey, United States, Russia, and the Assad regime itself. The Yemeni conflict mirrors much of the same game with different actors, with Saudi Arabia and the UAE determined to prevent the emergence of "Hezbollah South" in the guise of the Houthi regime. These two conflicts link back years, and span only a few countries in a specific region. South America, Mexico, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe are all on the front lines of the rapidly developing extremist-cum-drug-cartel wars. Hezbollah spans 6 continents, with major outposts in South America and Africa1. Determining effective ways to reintegrate extremists into regular society is more important than ever, in order to tame the expanding spiral of conflict.

Yet, in the journal Perspectives on Terrorism, Andrew Silke and Tinka Veldhuis noted that the field has been insufficiently studied. Adrian Cherney published a paper this year detailing issues and challenges in reintegration from the perspectives of correctional officers in the Corrective Services New South Wales division. According to Cherney, the major problems of reintegration are:

  1. Bureaucratic inefficiency
  2. Wild-card role of families
  3. Insufficient training for corrective services

Bureaucratic inefficiencies are expected across any large government, but the majority of corrective services use the Extremism Risk Guidance and Violent Extremist Risk Assessment 2 Revised tests, which hold dubious predictive value. Furthermore, information often has issues flowing between departments, with the state's security apparatus and the police often withholding information from the corrective services due to pending or active investigations. This misalignment of goals causes offenders to feel like "political pawns", where criteria for meeting parole are often restructured at a whim due to public opinion.

Families also play a wild-card role when it comes to reintegration. Cherney notes that "third parties such as families offer social (pro-social/non-extremist networks) and economic (source of work) support, as well as resources (e.g., accommodation and transport) that can influence the process of reintegration", but also describes the particular pressure placed on families as a result of integration. Social stigma from being related to offenders can cause families to experience anxiety, which then creates a negative feedback loop for the offender. Notably, "one could not assume the family environment is the optimal context for an offender to return to after serving a term of imprisonment for a terrorist-related offense", says Cherney.

Insufficient training for corrective services is another major issue. Most of the training for corrective services focuses on Muslim offenders, which is not representative of extremism as a whole. To add onto that, even most corrective services are not culturally aware. Cherney cites an extraordinary case where a corrective officer goes to the home of an offender on parole and another officer asks if calligraphy on the walls was a "terrorist thing".

Cherney's paper is just one paper that is sorely needed in an undeserved field. Now, more than ever, reintegration must be studied in detail.

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Posted: 2019-03-21
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