FAITH, HOPE AND CLARITY The Reintegration of Terrorist Offenders after Custody

TACT Offender Ressttlement Report - The 'Sunnah' Programme 2018

Report by Ian Acheson, Former Prison Governor and Reviewer of Islamist Extremism in Prisons, Makes the Case.

This report – “Faith, Hope and Clarity”, commissioned by Faith Matters, and published today makes the case that Muslim communities, working in a unique new partnership with statutory services, can reduce risk of released extremist prisoners re-offending through a community re-integration programme called the ‘Sunnah’ concept.

This concept empowers a core of carefully selected community based supporters who provide a ‘virtuous circle’ around the offender. These core supporters carry out a number of functions. They can challenge Islamist ideology, ensure behaviour is appropriate, monitor risk and provide practical help. In this way the community is given formal responsibility for helping resettle offenders with more prospects for them abandoning toxic behaviours and beliefs than the state creates on its own.

Acheson is a former prison governor with a long track record of work in the extremism field. He was responsible for the ‘landmark’ 2016 independent review of the threat posed by Islamist extremism in the criminal justice system and is the architect of the separation units for highly subversive extremist offenders. He writes extensively for the media continues to advise government nationally and internationally on combatting violent extremism.

The report highlights:

  1. That terrorism trials and convictions are rising,
  2. That the offender profile is changing as the police and security services get better at detecting and disrupting plots at an early stage
  3. Better detection and disruption can mean shorter prison sentences or in a rising number of cases, community penalties.
  4. Our national security depends on the state but the state alone can’t keep us safe from future harm. We need to look imaginatively at other models including greater use of communities to resettle ex-extremist offenders successfully.
  5. We need to mobilise communities to help people convicted of extremism stop being a threat to us and change their hateful beliefs for good.
  6. The vast majority of those convicted of extremism offences are Muslims inspired by Islamist extremism. The faith communities they return to after custody have a potentially huge role to play in partnership with the state to keep us safe.   
  7. The ‘Sunnah’ concept is a radical way to apply tried and tested thinking on sex offender management in the community to extremist prisoners.

Speaking on the launch of the report, Ian Acheson said:

‘Considerable numbers of terrorist offenders are now on the criminal justice conveyor belt. Most of them will return to their communities and increasing numbers are being given short sentences or community penalties. Many of these offenders will face unique and specific difficulties reintegrating with the communities they have come from and harmed. It’s not clear to me that the state should carry the burden of managing this risk or even if it can get ideologically extreme behaviour and beliefs changed on its own.  

I’ve argued that a partnership of community and statutory authorities is the best approach to reintegrating terrorist offenders and keeping all of us safe in the long term. It requires imagination and courage to take this approach but if the prize is safer communities who have a stake in protecting our national security, it’s worth exploring seriously. This is what I hope Government will do”.

Notes

  1. Download the report HERE.
  2. 695 people in this country have been convicted after facing terrorism charges since September 11th 2001.
  3. As of September 2017 (the latest available statistics), 213 are currently in custody.
  4. The remaining 482 will have served their sentences and are in the community.
  5. 20 terrorist related offenders were released from custody between Jan 15 and September 17..
  6. Non-custodial sentences for terrorist related offences is climbing steadily – it’s now 9% of all terrorist sentences – underpinning the need for community-based solutions.