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Role of faith-based interventions in work with violent extremist prisoners (UNODC, 2020)

Main principles of faith-based interventions in work with violent extremist prisoners

  1. Prison-based faith interventions can be used as an instrument for rehabilitation of VEPs, though they should be a part of a comprehensive and holistic rehabilitation programmes and can not be used as a standing along and the only intervention. Rehabilitation programmes for prisoners should depend on the risks and needs assessment and delivered in close coordination with other state bodies, non-governmental organization, including religious organizations.
  2. Any intervention requires understanding the religious ideologies (or the interpretation of them) that justify violent acts, and countering them with alternative scholarly arguments.
  3. Contents of a religion or belief should be defined by the worshippers themselves. Manifestations may be limited according to article 18, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  4. Religious professionals should be fully integrated as members of intervention teams in the prison environment. They should nonetheless work closely with all members of the team.
  5. The narratives applied for countering violent extremist ideologies should not be dictated by the views of any particular sect but rather be directed by the central message of those religious ideologies with regards to tolerance, balance, and the spirit of co-existence that guide good relationships with others and bring peace and security in society.
  6. In addition to countering the narratives of violence, the opportunity should be used to offer alternatives that send positive and non-violent messages.
  7. Religious professionals may need to adjust their approach based on background, knowledge level of the prisoner and their position in the organization. Religious professionals may be able to use more complex, in-depth arguments with more knowledgeable members, while simplifying their narrative and counter-narratives with other followers.
  8. Religious professionals must have credibility with the prisoners, as well as with government officials and organizations. Religious professionals should have the appropriate professional background and experience, education and credentials in this area. They will also need to demonstrate to the violent extremist prisoners that they have some measure of independence from the State and from prison authorities.
  9. Before beginning in-depth discussions on religious subjects, the religious faith leader should first come to know the prisoners personally, and keep the discussions focused on family, welfare and other similar topics.
  10. The point in the disengagement process where an intervention by religious faith leaders would be most effective will differ from person to person, with the intervention team making the decision regarding the most appropriate timing to expose violent extremist prisoners to religious faith leaders. For some prisoners, the period immediately following sentencing will be ill-timed, as they are still adjusting to life in the prison environment, while for others, this type of intervention might give them immediate hope for their post-prison life. Determining when to intervene should be made on a case-by-case basis.
Topic: Deradicalization, Foreign Terrorist Fighters, Penitentiary Institutions, Human Rights , Programmes, Plans of Action, Rehabilitation and Re-integration, Religion
Region: Europe
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