Skip to main content

Strengthening efforts to prevent and counter violent extremism

Good practices and lessons learned for a comprehensive approach to rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists offenders

The scope of this book is to present the work of UNICRI in the field of Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PVE/CVE), and sharing the lessons learned and good practices developed in this area of work.

The publication refers to the expertise gained over the last 15 years during the implementation of several programmes in the field of preventing and countering violent extremism and in particular in prison settings. Prisons can provide an environment where convicted terrorists network, recruit new members and command operations outside the prison. Most detained extremists will eventually be released and, in order to reduce the likelihood that they will re-offend, it is important to consider the potential of prisons to enable a reversal of radicalization.

Successful efforts reduce recidivism and prevent the recruitment of at-risk individuals by providing examples of constructive ways to foster inclusive societies. Rehabilitation and reintegration efforts can be seen as a cycle, which can be broken down into a number of stages, each presenting the opportunity for a person to break away from violent extremism. For some, this may occur at the earliest stages, but for others the cycle may continue.

A crucial stage of this cycle is represented by the community, namely one of the key influential social layers surrounding each individual offender, even during detention. In order for the individual to go through a sustained behavioural change, support from the community is needed. Therefore, when it comes to offender rehabilitation and reintegration, communities have a crucial role to play as they can serve as the foundation for a rehabilitation and reintegration process in numerous ways: before prison, if bail is granted, after prison for reinsertion into society, and in the case of the implementation of alternative measures to custody. All steps in the cycle will be described and illustrated throughout this publication.

UNICRI grounds its CT and PVE activities on a comprehensive end-to-end approach. This approach, from prevention and intervention to rehabilitation and reintegration, considers the broader context and involves those who are at high risk of failure in the community, individuals within the criminal justice system, and those who are attempting to reintegrate back into society.

UNICRI provides Member States with context-driven, actionable knowledge to strengthen national capacity with this comprehensive end-to-end approach that considers all steps in the life-cycle of a terrorist, violent extremist offender, or foreign terrorist fighter, including their social and institutional environment and the criminal justice system. The approach of UNICRI includes pilot projects assessing alternative measures and diversion programmes in juvenile justice systems, the implementation of rehabilitation and reintegration programmes in detention settings, and action to strengthen civil society actors in the work of reintegration into communities. Technical training for public actors and civil society actors, such as religious leaders, are an inherent part of project work. Action-oriented research grounds project work and feeds into the development of evidence-based strategies and policies. Evaluation of PVE initiatives is part of ongoing project work, especially in relevant regions, such as the Maghreb and Sahel.

Rehabilitation and reintegration efforts aim to change the attitudes of individuals and empower communities. There is not a one-size-fits-all model to achieve successful rehabilitation and reintegration. Context matters, and therefore UNICRI integrates context-specific considerations involving different disciplines and stakeholders, absorbing international good practices and producing evidence-based methodologies.

The Institute provides support and advice to countries by assessing risks and gaps, enhancing their capacity and building platforms of cooperation among the different actors involved in the process.