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Rome Memorandum on Good Practices for Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Violent Extremist Offenders (GCTF)

Governments have been increasingly focused on developing more effective strategies to reduce the appeal of terrorism and limit the pool of potential recruits. By better understanding the radicalization process and why people become terrorists, and more broadly, the underlying conditions conducive to terrorism, it is possible to formulate the steps to take to counter violent extremist ideologies. As part of the effort to counter violent extremism in all of its forms and manifestations, there is an increasing focus on prisons1 for several reasons. First, absent the appropriate and necessary safeguards, prisons may provide a „safe haven‟ where terrorists can network, compare and exchange tactics, recruit and radicalize new members, and even direct deadly operations outside the prison. Second, most imprisoned extremists will eventually be released. In order to reduce the likelihood that these individuals will return to terrorism after their release, it is essential to find ways to help them disengage from violent activities. Finally, while prisons have at times been environments where violent extremism has festered, the prison setting can also present opportunities for positive change – serving as a place where the tide of violent radicalism can be reversed. Prisoners live in a controlled environment, where the negative influences from their past which pushed them toward violent extremism can be minimized. They can instead be surrounded by persons who encourage them to pursue a more positive path. There are examples of individuals who entered prison as extremists, were rehabilitated and were then released as enthusiastic messengers against violent extremist philosophies.

In recognition of the fact that prisons can be incubators for violent extremist ideology or be institutions for reform, a number of governments from different regions have established prison-based rehabilitation programs. These programs are designed to rehabilitate violent extremists and reintegrate them back into society with a reduced risk of recidivism. This increase in the number of programs is a promising development and one that should be further encouraged, given the global and increasingly diffuse and decentralized nature of the threat. However, it is critical that States engaged in these efforts share information about their efforts with other interested States. While a onesize-fits-all approach is unlikely to work, knowing what other States have tried, whether at the national or local level, may be useful. Learning more about what has succeeded and what has failed and why can offer valuable lessons for governments as they work to build or improve their own programs.

All States are encouraged to consider the following list of recommended principles and good practices should they seek to strengthen existing or develop new programs or policies in this field, while recognizing that implementation of these practices must be consistent with applicable international law, as well as national law and regulations, taking into account the varied histories, cultures, and legal systems among States.

Topic: Rehabilitation and Re-integration
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