merel molenkampA contribution by Merel Molenkamp, senior advisor RAN-Network

The challenge of dealing with increasing radicalisation and violent extremism is impossible to escape. On a daily basis media report on the growing threat posed by extremists groups such as Daesh and the recent attacks in Paris and Brussels show the reality related to this threat. Politically, preventing and countering violent extremism is one of the top priorities in Europe.

These developments also have a big impact on the criminal justice sector. Policy makers are adapting legal frameworks to have more instruments to deal with foreign terrorist fighters. The police and intelligence services are under pressure to detect and gather evidence on violent extremist individuals, groups and activities in an early phase to prevent attacks. Prosecutors and judges are challenged to better understand processes of radicalisation to determine what level of risk an individual poses to society and what kind of sentence is appropriate for terrorist (related) offenses.   Prisons and probation need to deal with increasing numbers of violent extremist offenders, recruitment activities and radicalisation processes both inside and outside prison, and the public demand for visible interventions around these types of offenders. Eventually many of them will get relatively short sentences and come back into society, which calls for good rehabilitation programmes developed by prison, probation and partners such as community organisations, housing corporations, police and local authorities.

The Radicalisation Awareness Network

The Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) was developed to support first line practitioners from different sectors with these different challenges related to radicalisation and violent extremism. The network was initiated by the European Commission (EC) in 2011. The main objectives of the network since the beginning have been: 1) to put focus on the importance of prevention of radicalisation 2) to bring together first line practitioners (e.g. police officers, prison and probation staff, teachers) from across the EU to share best practices and 3) to formulate policy recommendations.

At the moment the network consists of over 2000 practitioners who are organised in nine working groups: RAN Police and Law Enforcement (POL), RAN Education (EDU), RAN Communication and Narratives (C&N), RAN Health and Social Care (H&SC), RAN Remembrance of Victims of Terrorism (RAN RVT), RAN Exit strategies (EXIT), RAN Local approaches (LOCAL), RAN Youth, Families and Communities (YF&C) and RAN Prison and Probation (P&P). These working groups have multiple meetings every year to bring together practitioners from that sector or on that theme to discuss current trends, challenges and promising interventions. These meetings result in concrete deliverables that can inform research and policy such as guidelines on exit work, a manifesto on the role of education in prevention of radicalisation and an overview of advantages and disadvantages of dispersal and concentration regimes in prison

RAN Prison and Probation

For criminal justice practitioners such as probation officers, the RAN P&P working group deals with issues specifically related to this sector. Key topics that require continuous attention are: the distinction and identification of violent extremist offenders (compared to ordinary offenders), risk assessment, safety and security management around these groups of offenders (regime choices), rehabilitation programmes, multi-agency cooperation, female and juvenile extremist offenders, developing evidence based approaches and building capacity (e.g. resources, training).

RAN P&P usually meets around four times a year. Three of the four meetings are small-scale expert meetings that bring together practitioners with expertise and experience on a particular topic (e.g. deradicalisation/ disengagement programmes in prison). The outcomes of these meetings feed into one bigger plenary meeting at the end of the year and into the RAN P&P Practitioners Working Paper. This working paper was delivered in the fall of 2015 and summarized the work of RAN P&P up until that moment. Each year an update is foreseen to include new insights in this rapidly changing field.

How you can benefit from RAN

As a practitioner/ professional in the criminal justice sector, there are several ways to benefit from the work of RAN:

  • You may join one of the meetings organised by RAN. Participants will be selected based on geographical spread, relevant expertise and availability.
  • You can sign up to the RAN Update; a monthly newsletter summarizing RAN events that have taken place and announcing events to come.
  • You can find in-depth reports and recommendations on the RAN website which may be used in policy and strategy documents as well as to share with colleagues in your own meetings and networks around this topic:
  • You can find inspirational practices and lessons from throughout the network In the RAN Collection. The Collection contains over 100 examples of practices, including contact details and it is available as a PDF document as well as through a search engine on the RAN website.
  • You can always contact the RAN Centre of Excellence if you have a specific question or if you are looking for specific information or people. To contact us, express interest and/or sign up for the newsletter, please send an email to:

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