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Bridging the Gaps between Prison and Community based Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programs for Violent Extremist Offenders

Turin (Italy) -

Conference at the UN Campus in Turin

From 14 to 16 February, a three-day conference organized by UNICRI has gathered practitioners and policymakers to discuss issues related to the rehabilitation and reintegration of foreign terrorist fighters and violent extremist offenders. Among the participants, representatives from governments, international and regional organizations from more than 20 countries.

The conference, entitled Bridging the Gaps between Prison and Community based Rehabilitation and Reintegration Programs for Violent Extremist Offenders, has been introduced by a brief overview of the theoretical framework, including the presentation of the initiative implemented by UNICRI to promote more effective disengagement, rehabilitation and reintegration programs for foreign terrorist fighters and violent extremist offenders, as well as to prevent and fight radicalization inside and outside prison settings.

The conference focuses on different aspects of the overall rehabilitation and reintegration framework, more specifically the issues discussed are related to the strategies to enhancing rehabilitation throughout the criminal justice system, including during pre-trial and post-conviction stages. In this respect, pre-trial diversion programs and national strategies are crucial to better manage prison settings by also considering the potential role of religious leaders, psychologists and family members.

Bridging the gap between custodial and non-custodial settings is also one of the main topic discussed during the conference. Alternative programmatic approaches involving multi-stakeholder cooperation (both inside and outside of prison settings) for preparing inmates for release and re-entry into society are fundamental components of a proper reintegration.

The conference places particular emphasis on the role of community based rehabilitation and reintegration programming in preventing and countering violent extremism both before and after custody, namely by developing tailor-made approaches, building stronger community resilience and preventing recidivism.

Along these lines, and with a view to making a substantial effort towards more effective and stronger rehabilitation and reintegration services, participants are setting out a comprehensive way forward for alternative measures and good practices to be taken based on the lessons learned in the field, with a special focus on the pivotal role played by multidisciplinary actors in the whole process.

The conference will approach its end with a session on key takeaways and considerations drawn from the three days, a comprehensive look at rehabilitation and reintegration efforts to be made and a wrap-up on potential future action.

As a member of the Countering Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF), UNICRI supports coordinated and coherent efforts across the United Nations system to prevent and counter terrorism. The Institute works on numerous projects which together cover a vast array of topics such as: returning foreign terrorist fighters; rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists in prison settings; juvenile justice and diversion or alternatives to incarceration, and the nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism.

Furthermore, UNICRI is conducting a pilot project to prevent radicalization and violent extremism in the Sahel-Maghreb region led by community actors. The initiative promotes inclusive and credible deradicalization activities through the development of more responsive and inclusive societies.

The experience and lessons learned coming from UNICRI's initiative in this field has inspired the Institute to gather together eminent experts, practitioners and policy makers for this three-day conference. Opening the conference, Dr. Jafar Javan, Acting Director of UNICRI said: “The threat of radicalization represents one of the main concerns for governments and civil society. The focus on both prisons and the community sphere as part of effective counter-terrorism efforts, is therefore increasing. We, as communities, must stress the importance of creating the conditions, for those who have failed, to have a second chance through rehabilitation and reintegration, and in parallel we must prevent the spread of extremist ideologies in prison settings.”