Malmö, Sweden, March 2018 — The partners in the PREPARE European project (PREventing radicalisation through Probation And RElease) met for their second coordination meeting, which was focused on the local actions to be developed in the second part of the year, in Malmö (Sweden), on 15 and 16 March. The development of nine local actions in the project partner cities and region is one of the most important aspects of this project. These are: the city of Malaga and the region of Catalonia (Spain), through its prison services, as well as the cities of Bagnolet (France), The Hague and Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Vilvoorde (Belgium). As part of the project, they receive support from the European Forum for Restorative Justice (Belgium), Fondation Action Contre l’Exclusion (France), Fryshuset (Sweden), Violence Prevention Network, and Denkzeit (Germany).
Exchanging on Swedish and Danish practices: guiding principles for preventive initiatives
Furthermore, the PREPARE partners had the opportunity to learn from Swedish and Danish experiences in the prevention of radicalisation through different lectures and study visits organised by Efus and Fryshuset on programmes such as EXIT-Sweden in Stockholm, the Flamman project in Malmö and the VINK Platform in Copenhagen. A presentation was also made about the Swedish prison and probation services.
While each of these initiatives has its specificities, they have several common success factors: building trust and a personal relationship with the recipients of the interventions; constantly assessing and monitoring the cases, and ensuring smooth cooperation between prison, probation and the other organisations involved in order to improve the long term impact of the interventions.
Building personal relationships and trust is essential for effective preventive intervention, especially when the beneficiaries, whether vulnerable or already radicalised individuals, enrol on a voluntary basis. In this sense, Robert Örell, from EXIT-Sweden and a former right wing extremist who now runs exit programmes aimed at white supremacists, said it is key to maintain a non-judgmental attitude from the very first meeting with clients and to refrain from making counter-arguments. Concerning the assessment and accurate monitoring of cases, which is essential to follow up on the exit process, social workers and NGOs said that maintaining contact with the entourage of individuals who are the subject of an intervention is a valuable source of information, in particular for the assessment phases.
Concerning the necessary cooperation between prison, probation and other organisations, participants said it is essential in order to prepare offenders, vulnerable or radicalised individuals to reintegrate society. They stressed that more often than not, the professionals who provide assistance while in prison cannot monitor their client after their release. It is therefore important that external actors coordinate the release process with the prison services in order to reduce risk factors such as the return of offenders to their former extremist environment.
Designing local actions through European exchanges
The main objective of the meeting was to work on the design of the nine local actions to be undertaken by the participating local and regional authorities. They all presented the objectives of their actions and the foreseen activities. They also discussed their challenges and questions on different issues, such a the kind of actors that should be involved in multi-agency case management and analysis platforms, the involvement of external NGOs in preventive work in prison before a planned release, and the opportunities and challenges of cooperating with former extremists when developing exit and mentoring programmes.
The project partners exchanged with the partner organisations – Denkzeit, the European Forum for Restorative Justice, Fryshuset and the Violence Prevention Network – on the main aspects of the actions they are planning to roll out, such as the content of trainings, the recipients’ profile, and the role of the partners who will be involved.
While these actions will not start before the autumn, Efus and the project’s partner organisations will organise in the coming weeks preparatory sessions with each of the participating local authorities in order to meet potential local partners.
The next PREPARE coordination meeting will be held in Malaga, Spain, in November 2018, and will focus on more advanced preparatory phases of the local actions: the mobilisation of partners, the implementation of activities and the identification of the challenges to overcome.