An introduction to countering violent extremism

Jayde Walker
Senior Psychologist, Department of Corrections

Author biography:

Jayde Walker has been a senior psychologist with Corrections since 2014. Her role includes provision of high level reports and expert testimony to the courts; supervision of clinical psychology interns, psychology and programmes staff; guest lecturer at the University of Otago; and Acting Principal Psychologist. Jayde previously worked for the Southern District Health Board's Intellectual Disability Service. She holds a delegation as a Specialist Assessor under the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory  Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003. Jayde is a member of the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists and the Australian and New Zealand Association for Psychiatry, Psychology and Law.

Key definitions

The terms “radicalisation”, “radicals”, “extremists”, “extremist violence”, and “terrorism” have been used variously, and sometimes interchangeably, within the literature on terrorism. No international agreement has been reached as to a universal meaning of “terrorism”, nor is there necessarily a distinction made between violent extremism and terrorism (Pressman & Flockton, 2012).

Extremism is any (generally political or religious) theory that holds to uncompromising and rigid policies or ideology. It is important to note that extremism is a culturally relative term that is subjective, emotionally laden, and pejorative. Norms and values are intricately bound in the definition of extremism and radicalisation (Pressman, 2009).

Radicalisation is generally considered a process, and not all of those who begin the process will end by engaging in violence. The distinction between extremism, or radicalisation, and terrorism (or extremist violence) is generally considered to relate to the distinction between attitudes and behaviours. Extremism and radicalisation are therefore not necessarily problematic; it is when such processes involve violence that it becomes unlawful (Pressman, 2009). The following definitions are considered useful (definitions adopted from Horgan, 2008):

Terrorism: acts of violence intentionally perpetrated on civilian non-combatants with the goal of furthering some ideological, religious, or political objective.

Radicalisation: the social and psychological process of incrementally experienced commitment to extremist political or religious ideology. Radicalisation may not necessarily lead to violence, but is one of several risk factors for this.

Violent radicalisation: the social and psychological process of increased and focused radicalisation through involvement with a violent non-state group or movement. Violent radicalisation encompasses the phases of becoming involved with a terrorist group and remaining involved and engaging in terrorist activity. It includes a process of pre-involvement searching for the opportunity to engage in violence and the exploration of competing alternatives. The individual must have both the opportunity for engagement as well as the capacity to make a decision about that engagement.

Disengagement: the process whereby an individual experiences a change in role or function that is usually associated with a reduction of violent participation. It may not necessarily involve leaving the movement. Additionally, whole disengagement may stem from role change, that role change may be influenced by psychological factors such as disillusionment, burnout, or the failure to reach the expectations that influenced initial involvement. This can lead to a member seeking a different role or roles within the movement.

De-radicalisation: the social and psychological process whereby an individual’s commitment to, and involvement in, violent radicalisation is reduced to the extent that they are no longer at risk of involvement and engagement in violent activity. De-radicalisation may also refer to any initiative that tries to achieve a reduction of risk of re-offending through addressing specific and relevant disengagement issues. De-radicalisation implies a different change than that associated with disengagement alone: it implies change at a cognitive level, not simply the physical cessation of some observable behavior (Chowdhury Fink & Hearne, 2008). De-radicalisation implies long-lasting change in orientation, such that there is presumably a reduced risk of re-engaging in terrorist activity (Horgan, 2008).

Throughout this article, the terms “terrorism” and “violent extremism” have both been used. The terms chosen reflect the terms favoured by the authors of the literature upon which this article was based. Within the Department of Corrections, the term “violent extremism” has been preferred as a more objective descriptor of violence perpetrated with the goal of furthering an extremist ideology.


The Department of Corrections established a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) working group in 2015. The establishment of the group arose from recognition that the department plays an important role in the government's wider counter-terrorism strategy. The department developed a CVE strategy to protect public safety and which aligns with international best practice, while recognising the unique New Zealand context. The strategy aims to address extremism emanating from a range of sub-groups and affiliations that pose a threat to public and community safety. This includes radical Islam, extreme right-wing groups, and issue motivation groups who encourage the use of violent actions to further their cause.

As part of the department's CVE strategy, a research project was undertaken by the author of this article. The project included a literature review regarding the processes associated with involvement, engagement, and disengagement in violent extremism; risk assessment for violent extremism; and rehabilitation and reintegration for violent extremist offenders.

It should be noted that despite a significant amount of available literature, there is neither a great deal of primary research, nor research of methodological robustness, especially in terms of treatment efficacy. A further challenge in the study of terrorism is that attacks are relatively rare events, despite the potentially significant consequences. The global terrorism rate for 2014 was 0.47 victim deaths per 100,000 . In comparison, the global homicide rate for 2012 was 6.24 per 100,000 (Institute for Economics and Peace, 2015). Although a rare event may be of low frequency, being able to hypothesise those factors that increase or decrease its likelihood may enable more effective risk management.

Terrorism involves the use, or threat, of violence as a means of attempting to achieve some social or political effect (Horgan, 2014). Violent extremists demonstrate a common willingness to engage in different types of unlawful violence in order to inspire fear. Despite different goals, they are driven by their political, politico-religious, or social ideologies (Pressman & Flockton, 2012).

Extremist violence has been growing on a global scale over the last 15 years. For example, the events of 11 September 2001 ("9/11") signaled a massive upwards shift in the scale of targeted terrorism (Horgan, 2014). New Zealand enacted the Terrorism Suppression Act (TSA) in 2002, subsequent to the 9/11 attacks in the United States. No offenders have yet been convicted under the TSA, although in June 2016 two men were convicted and sentenced for the possession (and, in one case, the distribution) of objectionable material related to extremist violence. In light of these recent convictions and the increasing global spread of terrorism, there is no reason to consider that New Zealand is, or will continue to be, exempt from terrorism concerns.

The New Zealand terrorist threat level is assessed as low, however there are a number of individuals and groups in New Zealand with links to overseas organisations that are committed to acts of terrorism, violence, and intimidation. The New Zealand Intelligence Community (2017) believes that, given the degradation of Al Qaeda and Islamic State in Middle East countries, the greatest threat of a terrorist act in New Zealand comes from "home-grown" radicalisation or a lone­actor attack.

Factors associated with terrorism

Relationship between terrorism and psychopathology

It is difficult to study the presence (or absence) of psychopathology or problematic personality traits in terrorist populations. For example, the available samples of known terrorists are those who have been apprehended and/or referred for mental health assessment, and therefore may not be representative of the wider terrorist population (Horgan, 2014). However, various reviews of the literature at different points in time have concluded that there is a lack of reliable, robust, and systematic evidence of higher rates of diagnosable serious psychopathology among known terrorists and that psychopathology is not a useful perspective for understanding or predicting terrorist behaviour (Borum, 2004).

Despite these observations, Corner, Gill, and Mason (2016) observe that recent research has shown that mental disorder is more common in lone-actor terrorists than group-actors. For example, a study of 119 lone-actor terrorists found that 31.9% had a history of mental illness or personality disorder (Gill, Horgan, & Deckert, 2012, cited in Corner et al, 2016). It is notable, perhaps, that this is a rate of psychopathology that is lower than observed in a recent survey of the general New Zealand prison population (lndig, Gear, & Wilhelm, 2016). In the majority of cases, such diagnoses were made before the individuals engaged in terrorism. Corner et al (2016) compared the types of mental disorders found in lone-actor and group-actor terrorists with those found in the general population. They found that schizophrenia, delusional disorder, and autism spectrum disorder have a substantially higher prevalence in the lone-actor population compared to a general population. Group-actors demonstrated significantly lower levels of mental disorder, at levels no different to what would be expected within the general population.

Lloyd and Dean (2015) suggest that individuals with mental disorder and problematic behaviour alongside an apparent interest in extremism come to the attention of authorities and are largely diverted. Where they are identified by authorities, it is more often as lone­actors, possibly because they are de-selected by organised terrorist groups. Convicted violent extremists are largely cognitively and emotionally intact, but not necessarily well­adjusted. Their difficulties are variously associated with grievance, injustice, identity, status issues, and a frustrated sense of worth (Lloyd & Dean, 2015). Furthermore, the consequences of involvement and engagement in violent extremist groups can be significant. These include anxiety, paranoia, trauma, burnout, poor physical health, drug and/or alcohol abuse, physical injury, loss of relationships with family and friends, disrupted education and career, criminal charges and/or imprisonment (with associated diminution of future employment, housing, and social prospects; Barrelle, 2015).

The role of major psychopathology among individuals who commit suicide attacks also appears to be limited. It is likely that the motivation for choosing to engage in a suicide attack in the interests of furthering a religious or political cause is distinct from that in the clinical phenomenon of suicide. For example, people generally associate suicide with hopelessness and depression. In contrast, people typically associate martyrdom with hopefulness about attaining rewards in the afterlife and feelings of heroic sacrifice (Borum, 2004).

The “terrorist personality”

The fact that terrorists share certain characteristics or traits does not imply that any individual who has these traits is bound to become a terrorist (Merari & Friedland, 1985, cited in Horgan, 2014). Therefore, individual explanations of terrorism in terms of personality traits are insufficient to account for why people become involved in terrorism (Horgan, 2014). Furthermore, such explanations fail to identify why so few people exposed to the presumed generating conditions of terrorism actually become terrorists (Horgan, 2014). A further difficulty with the search for a terrorist personality is that those involved in terrorist organisations can assume many different roles. The “personality” of a financier may be very different from that of a strategist, administrator, assassin, or suicide attacker. It is therefore not surprising that there is a lack of empirical support for a single set of psychological and/or personality attributes that explain terrorist behaviour (Borum, 2004).

The role of ideology

Ideology can be defined as a common and avidly-embraced set of rules and ideals to which an individual subscribes and which motivate them to act in specific ways. Beck (2002, in Borum, 2004) applied a cognitive model to terrorist ideologies and concluded that the thinking patterns of terrorists show the same kind of cognitive distortions observed in others who engage in violent acts (either individually or as members of a group). These included overgeneralisation (the supposed sins of the enemy extend to the entire population), dichotomous thinking (that a particular group or sub-set of people is either totally good or totally bad), and tunnel vision once engaged in their terrorist mission (i.e., their thinking, and consequently their behaviours, focus exclusively on the destruction of the target). Even among those individuals who subscribe to a destruction-oriented ideology, not all will personally engage in acts of extremist violence (Borum, 2004).

Vulnerabilities and motives

Motivation is often considered to be the cause or ideology of the terrorist group. However, motives to join a terrorist group and to engage in terrorist behaviour vary considerably across different types of groups, within groups, and may change over time (Borum, 2004). Review of the literature reveals three prominent and consistent motivational themes – injustice, identity, and belonging (Borum, 2004).

Injustice, and the associated desire for vengeance, can be specific or diffuse. Grievances may be economic, ethnic, racial, legal, political, religious, and/or social.

Grievances may be targeted towards individuals, groups, institutions, or categories of people (Borum, 2004).

The search for personal identity may draw an individual into terrorism in several ways. An individual may define his or her identity through group membership. A search for personal meaning may push an individual to adopt a role to advance a cause, with little or no consideration of the merit of that cause. The black and white nature of most extremist ideologies may be perceived as attractive to those individuals who feel overwhelmed by the stress of navigating a complicated world (Borum, 2004).

Finally, people can attain a sense of belonging, connectedness, and affiliation from being part of a terrorist group. This is a critical motivating factor for joining a group, remaining in the group, and may be a compelling influence for acting in accordance with the group's philosophies (Borum, 2004).

Pathways to radicalisation and terrorism

There is general agreement that the psychology of terrorism cannot be considered in isolation from political, historical, social, familial, individual, and even coincidental or accidental factors (Freid, 1982, cited in Borum, 2004; Bandura, 1990, cited in Borum, 2004). Terrorism is therefore not the product of a single decision, but the end result of a process of gradual exposure and socialisation that pushes an individual toward a commitment to extreme behaviour over time (Horgan & Taylor, 2001, cited in Borum, 2004). Given the diversity in motivation, vulnerability, and opportunity for terrorism, there is unlikely to be a single pathway that would apply to all types of terrorist groups or to all individuals (Borum, 2004). Indeed, it may be unreasonable to expect that any one model could encompass the breadth and variation in individual and group experiences to adequately explain the phenomenon of terrorism, particularly given that such a phenomenon is distinctive by its very low base rate of involvement (Horgan, 2014).

Contemporary models of radicalisation and terrorism

There are a variety of sociological and psychological models that have been used to explain terrorism (e.g. social learning theory, the frustration-aggression hypothesis, relative deprivation theory, and oppression theory). A significant problem with these theories is that they fail to account for why millions of people may be exposed to the same social circumstances but do not engage in terrorism, or why particular individuals become terrorists (Victoroff, 2005).

Several phase models exist that explain how an individual may become radicalised and escalate to involvement in terrorism activity. Such models include: the Joint Military Information Support Centre Framework (2004, cited in Borum, 2011), Moghaddam's Staircase to Terrorism (2005, cited in Borum, 2011), the Five-Step Social Identity Model of the Development of Collective Hate (Reicher, Haslam, & Rath, 2008 , cited in Barrelle, 2010), the Pyramid Model (Leuprecht, Hataley, Moskalenko, & McCaley, 2009), and Sinai's model of prison radicalisation (2014). The models have some common components and “stages” of radicalisation. These include the influence of personal factors such as a personal crisis, a need for protection, sense of grievance or injustice, self-identification with the in-group, and indoctrination. Social identity and the influence of others (through kinship, friendship, charismatic leaders, imprisoned terrorist “kingpins”, and even extremist prison chaplains) have been identified as having an important role in the radicalisation process (Sinai, 2014).

Lloyd and Dean (2015) describe research undertaken by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) of England and Wales. Cases were identified that did not accord with socialisation theories of extremism. Several of the convicted Al Qaeda­influenced offenders had a history of violent offending and a seemingly weak identification with Al Qaeda ideology. Instead, they held criminal attitudes supportive of violence, their involvement appeared to be opportunistic and self-serving, and they did not share the same religiosity or belief system as other Al Qaeda-influenced offenders. When these individuals were assessed, a high level of social dominance, aggression, intimidation, exploitation of others, narcissism, and sensation-seeking were identified.

Lloyd and Dean considered that these individuals were motivated by the exercise of power and control, rather than by ideology. The offenders for whom ideological motivation was primary were often disparaging of the “criminal” terrorists, and appeared to recognise the differences in motivation and values between the two groups. The implication of a criminal pathway is that individuals may progress from a pre-existing mind-set associated with a readiness to perform or contribute to a terrorist offence, and possession of the skills required to perform an act of terrorism, to include an opportunistic and weak level of identification with an extremist group or cause.

It is also important to acknowledge the role of the internet in the radicalisation process. Many of the socialisation theories of group-actor terrorist behaviour involve the direct influence of others (e.g. family, peers, charismatic leaders). The internet provides a form of surrogate community and features heavily in the literature on lone-actor terrorism. In the context of large-scale counter-terrorism responses to extremist groups, such groups operate more and more by acting as ideological suppliers and promoters of leaderless resistance (Bockler, Pad, & Reid Meloy, 2017). The internet is a significant tool to advance this strategy. It can be a vehicle for messages of a terrorist nature, an instrument for the recruitment of sympathisers, and a technical tool for advancing knowledge of how to commit terrorist attacks (Ellis, Pantucci, de Roy van Zuijdewijn, Bakker, Gomis, Palombi, & Smith, 2016).

Involvement, engagement, and disengagement

Horgan (2014) presents a process model that conceptualises terrorism as comprising at least three distinct phases: (1) becoming involved in terrorism, (2) engaging in terrorist activity, and (3) disengaging from terrorism. He posits that tracing this “arc” offers a focused way of determining the key behavioural features of each phase and how knowledge of those behaviours could inform preventive strategies.

The involvement, engagement and disengagement arc concept parallels wider theories of criminal behaviour (e.g. the onset, continuation, and desistance framework, or the rational choice theory of criminal behaviour), which suggest that desistance cannot be understood in isolation from the onset of criminal activity or the continuation of offending behaviour over time (Horgan, Altier, Shortland, & Taylor, 2016). Gang literature in particular is relevant because of the similar recruitment and desistance experiences for members of both gangs and violent extremist groups. Seeking identity is a primary reason for joining gangs, while age and/or maturity are primary reasons for leaving (Bjorgo and Horgan, 2009, cited in Barrelle, 2010). The longer a person is in a gang, the harder it is to leave. It is also harder to leave the more stigmatised the group is (Barrelle, 2010

Risk assessment tools for violent extremism

Several structured professional judgement risk assessment tools have been specifically developed overseas (largely in the United Kingdom and Canada) for violent extremism. These include the Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ (ERG22+; Lloyd & Dean, 2015), Identifying Vulnerable People Tool (IVP; Cole, Alison, Cole, & Alison, 2009), Violent Extremist Risk Assessment (VERA-2R; Pressman, 2009; Pressman & Flockton, 2012; Pressman, Duits, Rinne, & Flockton, 2016), and the Multi-level Guidelines (Cook, Hart, & Kropps, cited in Cook, 2014). The measures are considered to have face and content validity, as well as convergent validity (this is unsurprising given that these measures have all been informed by a common literature and consultation amongst the developers). As yet, there are few studies of predictive validity or reliability. All of the tools require a degree of professional judgement and experience to be effectively used, and involve specialist training (which is currently unavailable in New Zealand).

The degree to which these assessment tools may be applicable in a New Zealand correctional context is unclear, given the different development samples involved in the construction of the measures. Overall, although a structured professional judgement tool may be a valuable component of a violent extremism risk assessment, it is apparent that there are a number of clinical and practical barriers to using any of the identified measures in a New Zealand context. Therefore, an individualised, formulation-based approach is recommended.

Promoting disengagement


Disengagement and de-radicalisation is a relatively recent focus of counterterrorism studies. Concerns about personal safety and limited access to classified or sensitive information has constrained researchers from developing an accessible data set on which to base studies (Chowdhury Fink & Hearne, 2008). Furthermore, although various states have recognised a need to rehabilitate and reintegrate convicted extremist offenders back into society, there has been no international consensus on what constitutes rehabilitation, let alone how successful rehabilitation might be defined (Horgan & Braddock, 2010). It is therefore difficult to evaluate programmes because there are no established criteria for success and no standards that apply across cultures (Barrett & Bokhari, 2009). Additionally, given that comprehensive rejection of a set of extremist beliefs is often a core treatment goal, it is seldom possible to confirm that self-reported change is in fact genuine. There is a scarcity of programme outcome data, given the relatively short period of time programmes have been delivered, the small numbers of participants, and various states' willingness to publicise recidivism rates.

As with any offending behaviour, it is important to develop interventions that are based on a thorough assessment and formulation of why the individual committed, or supported, violent extremist activities. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC; 2016) therefore recommends that a risk-needs-responsivity framework underpins the development of interventions. The UNODC further recommends that the delivery of disengagement and reintegration interventions for violent extremist prisoners should not have a negative impact on, but be accompanied by, the delivery of rehabilitation programmes for the “regular” prison population. This is to limit the perception that violent extremist prisoners have any “special group status”, which may otherwise result in hostility or other prisoners wanting to become violent extremists.

Research with former violent extremists shows that those who have reintegrated most successfully and who report feeling most connected with mainstream society have made significant changes in six domains: social relations, coping, identity, ideology, action orientation, and disillusionment (Barrelle, 2015; UNODC, 2016). Individual development within these domains may take a period of years.

Relationships are a primary vehicle for disengagement from violent extremism and appear to be what best enables former violent extremists to “fit in” elsewhere in society. Social ties can also be an anchor for those who have disengaged. For this reason, promoting the maintenance, or re-establishment, of prosocial/non-extremist family and community links is essential in assisting individuals to leave violent extremism (UNODC, 2016).

An individual who has left a violent extremist group may well require professional support for social or emotional issues. It is common for individuals to experience distress associated with the loss of purpose, friendships, belonging, and identity associated with disengagement. Some individuals may anticipate that the group will seek to punish them for leaving, others may be anxious that the community they intend to move back into will reject them. Depending on the individual's personal history and experience of belonging to a terrorist group, problems with depression, anxiety, trauma, trust and relationship issues may be present. The development of coping skills and self-care is necessary for any person facing personal challenges. Therefore, psychological and health services will need to be incorporated into any disengagement interventions (UNODC, 2016).

Just as engagement is a transformative identity process, so too is disengagement. Disengagement involves an individual disconnecting from a violent extremist group and reconnecting elsewhere. This involves re-establishing a sense of self. This can be a particular challenge for many former violent extremists, particularly if they have been part of a violent extremist group for a long time. Many such individuals will need to develop multiple new threads of identity to determine where they belong (UNODC, 2016).

Change in ideology involves the individual coming to a point where they no longer believe that violent methods are justified, they tolerate or accept that other people hold different beliefs and belong to different identity groups, and they hold a coherent set of ideas and beliefs that enable peaceful cohabitation. Research with former violent extremist offenders suggests that guidance about foundational knowledge in their faith or traditions from a respected source was critical in promoting a change in their ideology. It is important that any such guide is able to respectfully challenge the individual's ideas and beliefs that support violence (UNODC, 2016).

Depending on their personal experiences and socialisation prior to entering a violent extremist group, some individuals will need support in finding constructive and lawful ways to pursue their cause or otherwise engage in a prosocial lifestyle. Active participation in family, work, community, or prosocial activities are examples of different aspects of a non-violent action orientation. Providing education or vocational training may prove useful in this area (UNODC, 2016).

Disillusionment is commonly cited in the literature as being associated with disengagement. Disillusionment can come from the way in which the group operates, the ideology of the group, the behaviour of the leader, or the rules of the group. New recruits report a discrepancy between their vision of involvement and engagement, and their actual experience. This can also be a factor involved in disengagement. Other members may become increasingly disillusioned with the ineffectiveness of the tactical use of violence to achieve their objectives (UNODC, 2016).

Additional factors that may influence an extremist offender to disengage from violence are those that are outside external control. These factors include aging, experiencing a turning-point event (such as the death of a family member or close friend), or changing personal priorities (such as the desire to lead a quieter life, start a family, or take up legitimate employment). Furthermore, disengagement is a multifactorial process and social and political factors will also have some influence (UNODC, 2016).

Community management

It is generally accepted that the effective management of offenders in the community requires a multi-agency, collaborative approach (Correctional Services Canada, 2014). Various international forums undertaken in recent years have revealed that there is not a significant amount of experience internationally of managing violent extremist offenders (or ex-offenders) in the community. A significant factor in this appears to be that individuals convicted of terrorist offences have tended to be issued lengthy custodial sentences (Correctional Services Canada, 2014). Amongst those jurisdictions with experience in community management, typical responses include having additional conditions or restrictions placed on released offenders (e.g. residency requirements, conditions prohibiting air travel, limited or no access to the internet and/or mobile phones, and financial disclosures). Most jurisdictions have also applied higher level monitoring for these offenders (e.g. increased frequency of report-ins to probation services, including home visits, and having direct contact with the individual’s immediate social circle in order to obtain collateral information regarding reintegration and risk management). Notification of release to community partner agencies (and the public) has occurred in some countries.

Recommendations for psychological assessment and treatment

Assessment should take an individualised, multi-method, multi-modal approach. Psychometric assessment could include assessment of personality functioning, assessment of other clinical factors (e.g. cognitive functioning), assessments for general violence risk, and specialised assessments for extremist violence. The goal of the assessment is to develop a clear understanding of the individual's pathway into involvement and/or engagement in violent extremism.

Given the role of religious belief in many cases of terrorist extremism, psychological treatment may be fraught from the outset. For example, assuming that the client is willing to enter into treatment, he or she may start from the position that a psychologist who does not belong to the same cultural, religious, or political background deserves no respect, has no right or authority to challenge the client's beliefs, and represents the very social order that the terrorist is dedicated to destroying.

However, if treatment is to be attempted, it should be individualised. The motivations for individuals to become involved, engaged, and disengaged from violent extremism are likely to vary and present with idiosyncratic features that may not be amenable to a group-based intervention format. Furthermore, the likely low numbers of such offenders in New Zealand means that it may not be viable to develop a group-based intervention programme. Treatment planning, in the absence of clear guidance from the literature, should be based on the risk-needs-responsivity framework, in accordance with the existing evidence base for what works with offenders.

It is recommended that, where the client can be successfully engaged, psychological interventions focus initially on behaviour change, given that it is violence that is unlawful and not the holding of extremist beliefs. Attention should be given to challenging cognitions that legitimise the use of violence as a strategy to effect social or political change. Factors that have consistently been identified as facilitating disengagement should be a focus of treatment. Treatment may also include working collaboratively with others, where relevant for the individual. For example, religious or cultural leaders may be appropriate to include in situations where religious and/or cultural factors are motivators for
the behaviours of concern.

Recommendations for reintegration and community management

The reintegration process involves balancing rehabilitation goals with security needs in terms of monitoring and other potential restrictions. Too much emphasis on security may create practical barriers to reintegration (e.g. difficulty accessing employment or other pro-social activities due to restrictions associated with electronic monitoring). This may in turn increase the risk of an individual perceiving grievance, which may maintain the attitudes and beliefs that contributed to their initial involvement or engagement in violent extremism.

The on-going assessment and management of offenders of national security interest is likely to be best achieved by a multi-disciplinary team. Oversight can be provided by the National High and Complex Needs Panel with regular updates from multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) managing such offenders. These MDTs should comprise of representatives from custody, probation, psychology, intelligence, and the high risk response team. Non-departmental community agencies that are likely to be involved include the Police, religious or cultural representatives where relevant to specific cases, supported accommodation providers, offender reintegration services (e.g. PARS), and other relevant community services (e.g. refugee support agencies).

Working relationships, where these do not exist already, will need to be developed. Where joint work is to be undertaken, establishing a lead agency responsible for service coordination would be advisable. The general consensus internationally is that the effective management of offenders of national security interest requires a national (possibly international) and multi-systemic approach to the collaborative, open, and reciprocal sharing of information at all points of offender management (pre-sentence, incarceration, and through release), within established legal and ethical requirements of the groups or professions involved.


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