Deradicalisation in prison

With its deradicalisation programmes, Violence Prevention Network has devoted itself from the outset to effectively combat the multiplicator effect of correctional facilities for radicalisation processes or their use as a hunting ground of extremist recruitment. Whether or not an extremist or radicalised perpetrator continues to follow the convictions that led to his incarceration after his release is less a matter of ideology than the people he interacts with during imprisonment. Due to the differing requirements in the German prison system, Violence Prevention Network therefore offers measures of prevention and deradicalisation.

© Violence Prevention Network/Klages

Prevention measures target early detection or diagnosis of radicalisation and at the reversal of incipient radicalisation processes of imprisoned young people. The offer includes prevention workshops or group training lasting several months followed by stabilisation coaching (max. 1 year) after release.

The deradicalisation of highly radicalised offenders with a potential terrorist background (e.g. Syria returners, members of terrorist cells in Germany) is different. These cases require active initiation of deradicalisation and dissociation processes as well as disengagement assistance, as they rarely have the intrinsic motivation to break away from their beliefs. To make matters worse, they are usually influenced by immense mistrust of state institutions and representatives of the majority society, which significantly increases the access barrier. The individual training is therefore usually initiated by the recommendation of judicial authorities or the result of a court order.

In terms of content, both the prevention workshops, as well as the group and individual training aim to establish a stable working relationship based on trust, to initiate critical reflection and cognitive processes, but also to develop perspectives and to establish stable support systems for the period after being released from prison to ensure future dissociation from the extremist environment.

© Violence Prevention Network/Klages

Since 2001, more than 1,300 juvenile violent offenders at risk of extremism have completed Violence Prevention Network’s deradicalisation programme, whose original target group (right-wing extremist violent offenders) was expanded in 2006 to include teenagers at risk of being influenced by Islamist extremism, and in 2011 to adult offenders with terrorist background.

In 2015, the BMFSJ commissioned Violence Prevention Network to develop structural measures for deradicalisation in correctional facilities. In partnership with the cooperating entities, Violence Prevention Network is coordinating the joint development of nationwide standards and quality criteria for radicalisation prevention and deradicalisation in correctional facilities and the probationary system.