In a not so distant past, terrorist attacks were committed by criminals coming into a county, and then leaving it again after they have done their job. The London Bombings on 7th July 2007, however, were committed by radicalized nationals feeling alienated and deprived in their own society. In the aftermath of these attacks Criminal Justice agencies were presented with the situation that a number of people convicted under Terrorist Legislation would receive prison sentences of less than a few years before release on license into the community. In order to deal with this group of offenders, London Probation Trust started the European project Towards Preventing Violent Radicalisation (TPVR). “What we are essentially doing is to compare various intervention models delivered by the volunatry sector to identify the factors of success and models of best practices”, clarifies Sara Robinson, TPVR Project Manager. The first results of the project were discussed at the TPVR expert meeting held at 12th May in Berlin, Germany
TPVR, which was largely funded by the Prevention of Fight against Crime Programme of the European Commission, sought to continue the partnership between the German Violence Prevention Network (VPN) and London Probation Trust to research and review these methodologies/interventions which have been used with those convicted of violent extremism while in custody and while on licence once released into the community.
“In one of projects on Reducing Hate Crime in Europe London Probation had identified a specialist organisation in Germany who engaged with young men serving prison sentences for violence inspired by extreme right wing political groups”, tells Sara Robinson. “VPN have established methodologies for working with perpetrators motivated by right wing extremist ideology. Later they have developed this work to include working with Muslim offenders who have been convicted of hate related violent crime.”
In addition, in TPVR links had been made with London Mosques and faith groups in a concerted attempt to engage the Muslim community in a search for a lasting solution to violent extremism.
Linda Pizani-Williams from the European Institute of Social Services from the University of Kent, and Dr. Harald Weilnböck from the University of Zürich, would research the effectiveness of the interventions used by the project partners, what factors of the programme made it successful and what are the differences in working with different types of radicalized offenders.
“The research is expected to be finished later this year”, reveals Sara Robinson. However the first results of their research, which they presented to the project partners and delegates from Europe at the expert meeting in Berlin, did show some clear factors of success. One of these is there is a very important role for the community, whether that is to prevent vulnerable people form radicalizing, or to provide ongoing contact with ex-offenders on license and after release, which basically is the proof that after care is needed. One of the most remarkable best practices, according to me, comes from the German programme for youth criminals. Often these youths operate in groups, where they get challenged. In fact, being challenged is how they start their criminal career. VPN developed a model in which the contact person challenges the youth criminal in the same way as the group is challenging him. Also they are trying to talk with the youth about its past, and notably the positive points of it, as youth criminals have a tendency to focus on their negative experiences in life.”
The final report will be presented at the joint TPVR-RIRP* conference in London, from 4th – 6th October.
* – Reducing Influences that Radicalize Prisoners; a EU funded project that concentrates on developing training materials for prison and probation staff to recognize and prevent violent extremism in prison and probation.