PREPARE conducted nine local activities aimed at building the capacities of local and regional authorities in preventing radicalisation in probation and release and supporting the re-integration of radicalised offenders. They are the result of intense exchange and cooperation among pairs or small groups of partners, including the partner local authorities and the project’s partner NGOs and experts, who engaged in the co-production of these innovative strategies. The local projects range from training programmes to multi-agency roundtables and the development of case management protocols. The following presentations include a description of the actions as well as information on lessons learnt and future prospects.
The municipality of Avignon worked jointly with the Act Against Exclusion Foundation (Fondation Agir Contre l’Exclusion, FACE) to seek ways to better assist offenders who are being released from prison and are deemed at risk of radicalisation. The main objective was to foster closer cooperation between the municipality and relevant local and regional stakeholders in the field of radicalisation prevention, which the municipality achieved through organising joint working groups. Avignon has decided to focus on young offenders at risk of radicalisation and is cooperating with the Youth Judicial Protection Service (Protection Judiciaire de la Jeunesse, PJJ) and other services in charge of youth protection.
The Government of Catalonia’s PREPARE pilot project consisted in setting up a multi-agency structure to manage the case of two offenders serving sentences in Catalonia for crimes related to radicalisation leading to violent extremism, who were close to conditional or final release. This structure was managed by the regional government’s Department of Justice and comprised the regional police of Catalonia and the Town Councils of Terrassa and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. The main results were more fluid relationships and better coordination and communication between the institutions and professionals involved in supporting ex-offenders when they return to the community.
Clichy-sous-Bois (FR) – Efus: Training on disengagement and de-radicalisation for frontline practitioners
The municipality of Clichy-sous-Bois’s PREPARE pilot project consisted in designing and implementing a training programme for municipal officers on radicalisation. Delivered by municipal officers and external experts, the training combined theoretical information and practical exercises on subjects such as the history of political and religious extremism, stereotypes about radicalisation, and the ‘recruitment’ process. The municipality now plans to develop tools to evaluate and monitor the targeted actions that will have been carried out following the training and to set up a system for the exchange of interdisciplinary practices.
Having been selected as a pilot city for the Spanish government’s 2015 National Strategic Plan Against Violent Radicalisation, Málaga has drawn up a strategy for strengthening social cohesion and countering marginalisation and violent radicalism. The city has used the PREPARE project to reinforce this plan through collaborative meetings between institutions, such as NGOs and the police service. It has also used the project to train local frontline staff in accompanying, at the time of release and during probation, offenders who are radicalised or at risk of being so. A partnership was established with the German NGO Denkzeit in order to deliver this bespoke training programme.
The municipality of Rotterdam partnered with Fryshuset–Exit Sweden to exchange knowledge on working with violent extremist offenders. Two half-day training sessions were held where workers from Rotterdam’s Radicalisation Contact and Advisory Point (MAR according to the Dutch acronym) and the Municipal Radicalisation Expert Pool (GER according to the Dutch acronym) were invited to learn about the methods employed by Exit Sweden in preventing radicalisation in probation and release. The collaboration helped both parties to exchange ideas and gather contacts, and insights gained at the training will help Rotterdam further shape its training programme for the MAR and GER.
Within the framework of PREPARE, the municipality of Sarcelles organised a one-week “citizenship training” for young petty criminals. The project targeted 15 offenders aged between 16 and 25 who had been sentenced to a minimum of 35 hours of community work. By providing them with knowledge of citizens’ rights and duties, the importance of culture in daily life and the concept of solidarity, which can for example inspire someone to do volunteering, the project aimed at helping them reintegrate into society. The training was delivered by various organisations including local charities, the police, and employment agencies.
Swedish Prison and Probation Service – Fryshuset / Exit Sweden (SE) – Case management in probation and exit work
The Swedish Prison and Probation Service (SPPS) of Sollentuna joined up with the non-governmental organisation Fryshuset–Exit Sweden to organise a workshop for their respective teams. It gathered some 20 probation and prison staff from different regions of Sweden, two representatives from Exit Sweden, an international expert from Belgium, and the Efus staff. The objective was to present the two organisations and their work, and to meet in person in order to strengthen mutual cooperation.
The Hague (NL) – European Forum for Restorative Justice: Learning from the Northern Irish probation regime
In May 2019 the municipality of The Hague organised a meeting to explore the eventual adaptation of a scheme used in Northern Ireland with Unionists/Loyalists to the context of returning Dutch foreign fighters. The original Northern Irish project employed restorative practice training as a means for promoting non-violence and reintegrating ex-combatants into their communities. It seemed like a particularly interesting model for The Hague because it sought solutions beyond punitive and securitisation measures. The interest from partners was particularly keen, and in general the meeting helped participants become more aware of the need to promote initiatives that go beyond the strict framework of security measures and criminal law.
Within the PREPARE project, Vilvoorde partnered with Fryshuset-Exit Sweden in order to explore alternative methods and share good practices for working with “formers” (i.e. those who have moved away from radicalism) and violent extremists. In an initial stage, a working session was organised in Stockholm with Exit Sweden, one of Vilvoorde’s returnees who was now a former, a local law enforcement officer and Vilvoorde’s head of service. At the same time, a study visit to the Swedish organisation gave some useful perspectives to the local police officer and the head of service on how to relate to the radicalised individual. Finally, training was provided for the larger network of partners to come to a shared methodology in assessing different needs in cases and to overcome difficult questions during decision processes.