Washington, July 3 (ANI): Individual de-radicalization and disengagement programs, such as those in Saudi-Arabia, Singapore, Indonesia and other nations, 'can make a difference,' according to researchers at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) which is based at the University of Maryland and the International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) at Kings College in London.
The initial findings of the research have identified principles and best practices to help governments and policymakers avoid costly and counterproductive mistakes. These include:
Prison services should be more ambitious in promoting positive influences inside prison, and develop more innovative approaches to facilitate extremists' transition back into mainstream society. The current emphasis on security and containment of terrorists leads to missed opportunities to promote reform.
Over-crowding and under-staffing amplify the conditions that lend themselves to radicalization. Badly run prisons make the detection of radicalization difficult, and they also create the physical and ideological space in which extremist recruiters can operate freely.
"This is a much bigger issue than most people appreciate, prisons change behavior for both good and for bad. It's difficult to detain prisoners forever, but when is it safe to let them go?" said University of Maryland professor and START Director Gary LaFree.
Religious conversion is not the same as radicalization, and good counter-radicalization policies - whether in or outside prison - never fail to distinguish between legitimate expression of faith and extremist ideologies. Prison services should invest more in staff training and consider sharing specialized resources.
Even in the best circumstances, de-radicalization and disengagement programs complement rather than replace other instruments in the fight against terrorism.
The final report will be presented in Washington, D.C. this fall.
The report is based on research by 16 of the world's leading terrorism experts. (ANI)