Preventing radicalisation in prison and in probation: a hundred European attendees at the LIAISE 2 seminar in The Hague

The Hague, Netherlands, April 2017 – About 100 representatives of local authorities, the judiciary and experts from 13 European countries attended the seminar on the “Prevention of radicalisation in the context of probation and prison” organised jointly by the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus) and the European Confederation of Probation (ECP) as part of the LIAISE 2 (Local Institutions Against Violent Extremism) project and hosted by the Dutch city of The Hague, on 29 March 2017.

The objective of the seminar was to analyse the opportunities and challenges facing local partnerships between local authorities and the judiciary in their efforts to prevent radicalisation in prison and in probation. Indeed, whether they are focused on de-radicalisation, disengagement, rehabilitation or reintegration, action programmes require that all the involved partners work in a coordinated manner. Numerous studies, including those carried out by Efus on the prevention of reoffending and, since 2014, of radicalisation have shown the key role played by local authorities in this respect.

The meeting was introduced by Maarten van de Donk, of the RAN (Radicalisation Awareness Network) Centre of Excellence. He presented the main challenges and European approaches to the prevention of radicalisation in prison and in probation (see his presentation). He emphasised in particular that programmes implemented in prison must be followed through outside, once detainees are freed. He also highlighted the need to raise awareness and ‘educate’ the general public in order to succeed in reintegrating radicalised individuals, and the need to provide training to professionals of the judiciary.

In order to illustrate the challenges at play in the partnerships between local authorities and judicial stakeholders, representatives of the Dutch probation services and of the municipality of The Hague presented their respective approaches.

The probation services explained how their specialised team works and presented the specific tools designed to respond to radicalisation.

The municipality of The Hague presented their “House of Security” scheme, which is based on individualised support carried out by multi-disciplinary teams.

The three interventions enabled attendees to discuss the conditions for successful cooperation and how the issue of radicalisation is having an impact on existing practices and schemes.

Restorative justice and work with returnees

Tim Chapman, Lecturer on Restorative Practices at the University of Ulster and a former Assistant Chief Probation Officer, presented the ALTERNATIVE research project (see his presentation). Funded by the European Union, it uses restorative justice with violent extremists in Ulster. Based on this experience, Tim Chapman shared many recommendations on how to open and maintain dialogue with extremists and encourage them to disengage.

The last part of the seminar was dedicated to the issue of returnees. Liesbeth van der Heide, representative of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) talked about the difficulties in reintegrating returnees such as their commitment to extremist ideologies, the perception of radicalised individuals by the general public, and evaluating the risks.

Afterwards, a panel session with Tim Chapman and Hazim Fouad, expert in Islamic Studies at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution of the State of Bremen (domestic intelligence agency, Germany) was devoted to the role former extremists can play in preventing radicalisation. The main themes that were discussed with the speakers and participants were the kind of message former extremists can convey, their credibility amongst young people, and relations with the media.

Two more LIAISE 2 seminars in 2017

This seminar was the third of a series of five European seminars to be organised by the end of 2017 as part of the LIAISE 2 project, which is led by Efus and co-funded by the European Commission.

The next seminar, “The rise of polarisation and radicalisation in Europe: tackling all forms of violent extremism at the local level”, co-organised by the European and Italian Forums for Urban Security, will be held on 19 May in Rimini, Italy.

The last seminar will be held as part of the international conference “Security, Democracy & Cities: co-producing urban security policies”, which will be organised by Efus in partnership with the city of Barcelona and the Generalitat of Catalonia (Spain), on 15-17 November 2017, in Barcelona, Spain.

The LIAISE 2 project gathers 34 partner institutions from 22 cities and regions from 10 countries. Apart from the European seminars, the project enables local authorities to receive technical and financial support for the implementation of a training and a pilot local action, both tailor made to their specific needs.

Read also RAN P&P Practitioners’ working paper “Approaches to violent extremist offenders and countering radicalisation in prisons and probation” in English, French or German.

More information on the LIAISE 2 project.