Chapter 27 Discussion Question Pointers

End of Chapter Question Pointers

Chapter 27 – Disengagement and De-Radicalization Programmes

Sarah Marsden

  1. Should interventions focus on deradicalization (attitudinal change) or disengagement (behavioural change)? Why?
  2. Given the complex nature of the relationship between attitudes and behaviour, reflect on the level of certainty you feel is necessary to make a determination as to whether interventions should target one or the other. Consider the kinds of information you would need in order to determine whether interventions should target a person’s attitudes, or whether they should focus on his or her behaviour. Then weigh up the strengths and weaknesses of the research evidence to decide whether you feel there is enough information available to help make a decision about this issue.

    Historically, there was far less emphasis on attitudinal change. Over time, there has been an increased interest in trying to change the way people think as well as what they do. Consider whether this development is proportionate to the relative threat from terrorism and the way this has changed over time.

    There are important ethical issues linked to the question of whether to try and change someone’s attitudes. These include questions about the appropriate limits on freedom of speech, and the right to hold beliefs that might be exclusionary or against social norms. Consider how you might try and weigh these rights against the aims of public protection that are typically described as underpinning deradicalization work. 

  3. What are the challenges facing multi-agency deradicalization initiatives? How might they be addressed?
  4. Organizations have different priorities, for example the police are more concerned with information gathering in support of prosecution, whilst the probation services focus more on rehabilitation and reintegration. Consider the tensions between these differing priorities and the kinds of challenges that might face practitioners in different organizations when they are trying to coordinate their work.

    Information sharing can be a challenge. Different organizations may have contrasting approaches to what information can be shared, under what circumstances, and with whom. For example, mentors may feel sharing information with the police may undermine the relationship of trust they need to develop to work with someone effectively. Reflect on the kinds of principles that might help determine how these tensions might be addressed.

    Terrorism offenders are typically treated as high risk and are often subject to significant monitoring. Given the number of organizations that can be involved in this process, what kinds of challenges do you think this might generate for the individual concerned and what risks might it pose to their successful reintegration?

    It is not uncommon for non-statutory organizations such as charities and NGOs to be involved in deradicalization work. One of the reasons they are considered appropriate actors is because they are perceived to be more credible than statutory agencies who may be considered illegitimate by those committed to extremist ideologies. However, they also typically have fewer resources and often have to rely on the government for financial support and access to those they want to work with. Consider the implications of these challenges for intervention efforts.

  5. Is reintegration a more appropriate framework than deradicalization? Why?
  6. There are different sites for reintegration; these can include moving from the prison to the community, into the family setting, in relation to a specific community context, or in terms of a broader experience of reintegrating back into mainstream society. Consider the implications of thinking about reintegration in these different ways and assess which you feel is the most useful in the context of terrorism offending.

    Reintegration is focused on shifting an individual’s relationship to their social context and may therefore be considered a broader aim than deradicalization. Reflect on whether you think this wider focus is practical and appropriate. Because of the focus on the social setting, reintegration typically involves a range of other actors beyond the individual, such as their family, friends, or employer. This has led some to argue that deradicalization programmes should more consistently work with the individual alongside their families and friends. Consider the risks and opportunities associated with this approach.

    Reintegration requires the community to accept the individual, as well as needing the individual to want to reintegrate. Because of the stigma that can be attached to a terrorism offence, it can be difficult for the community to accept them and allow them to reintegrate. Reflect on what might make it easier for communities to receive those with a history of terrorism.

  7. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the risk paradigm?
  8. There is a growing body of evidence about risk factors which is helping to interpret pathways into terrorism as well as supporting risk assessment and management processes. Consider what an evidence-based approach to interpreting the risks of involvement in terrorism would look like, and assess how much further the field has to go until this is reached.

    Protective factors have been overlooked in the effort to try and identify risk factors. This is the case in non-politically motivated offending as well as with terrorism. Reflect on the challenges facing efforts to identify protective factors, for example, associated with identifying how, when, or why they might be understood to work.

    Critics suggest that the risk-based approach can decontextualize complex human experiences and characteristics and fails to take a holistic approach to the individual. However, risk assessments can also support decision making and risk management processes and are an established part of much criminal justice practice. Given these pros and cons, consider whether the dominance of the risk paradigm is justified.

    Strengths-based approaches are argued to be more attractive to those involved in terrorism or crime because they focus on the future and aim to help people pursue fulfilling lives rather than just managing risks. Consider the challenges associated with trying to motivate individuals to engage with reintegration and deradicalization interventions, and how a strengths-based approach might help mitigate some of these issues. 

  9. What are the risks associated with preventative counter-terrorism policies?
  10. Preventative policies try and identify those at risk of engaging in harmful behaviour. Where individuals are identified, this can lead to stigma and has the potential to have a negative impact on the person concerned. Reflect on how this might be mitigated and consider the circumstances under which the risks are so great that this approach should not be deployed.

    Those critical of preventative initiatives suggest that in the attempt to identify those at risk, communities may be targeted along religious, ethnic, or other identity-related lines. Consider what impact this might have on the communities and on the wider effort to try and prevent terrorism, for example, by making communities less likely to cooperate with the police.

    Critics suggest that preventative initiatives can justify the creation of a disproportionately large security apparatus that infringes on the rights of the wider population. Consider how to make an assessment about the appropriate scale of preventative programmes and reflect on how you would assess the pros and cons of this kind of initiative.

    Predicting the future in the service of trying to prevent terrorism is a very uncertain process. Consider what kinds of challenges face the effort to try and develop an evidence base to support preventative initiatives, for example, when trying to demonstrate or explain why an event did not occur.