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Politie & wetenschap

Terrorism experts Daan Weggemans (Leiden University) and Beatrice de Graaf (Utrecht University) conducted one of the first scientific studies on the societal reintegration of jihadist former detainees. They showed that the reintegration process isn't without problems. Their conlusions are presented in the report "Upon release".

Daan Weggemans
26 May 2015

The study showed that some former detainees became more involved in radical networks during and after their stay in prison. Furthermore, their arrest and detention increased feelings of societal distrust and resentment. After their release the status of some former detainees increased among comrades. In addition, they often received only limited guidance during their reintegration.

Another important barrier is ‘the terrorism sanction-list’. Due to the rigid and arbitrary application of these sanctions the reintegration into society is affected greatly in a negative way. The freezing of financial assets after their release leads to problems for example when opening a bank account, finding a job, or applying for social insurances. In contrast, new social contacts, a future perspective (e.g. via education), the engagement of (non-radical) family members, and in some cases the possibility of ideological dialogues may promote re-integration.

An insufficient reintegration process

”Upon release" provides a unique insight into how detainees with jihadistic backgrounds return to society. When a former detainee is released from prison, it is the task of the government to ensure that that person no longer poses any threats to the public. Therefore, in recent decades various instruments for ’conventional’ criminals are designed to prevent recidivism and to allow the former detainee a "softer landing" in society.

This is not the case for former detainees with jihadistic backgrounds; this type of crime is relatively new, difficult to understand and to monitor. Their reintegration is also a socially sensitive issue which frequently receives great political and public attention. With this research the authors fill an important gap in the academic literature about radicalization and de-radicalization of suspected and convicted jihadists. The researchers emphasize that the imprisonment of violent extremists is not the end of the story, but rather the beginning of the next phase: it may be the beginning of a successful reintegration, or the start of a new cycle of violence. What factors promote or impede the process of reintegration? The aim of this explorative study was to describe existing practices of detention and reintegration.

The authors have interviewed both former detainees with an extremist background as well as professionals involved in the practice of reintegration. During these interviews, the involvement of various professionals, particularly the police, was also discussed. Professionals particularly mentioned the lack of legal tools for reintegration programs, the limited available information and the difficulty in understanding the true intentions of suspects with an extremist background.

A starting point for future research

"Upon release" is an exploratory study. Exploratory in this context implies that this is not an exhaustive study but that this study provides a starting point for further research. This study learns us that pathways after prison can differ greatly and that monitoring and supervision do not automatically lead to the desired results. After all, releasing someone from prison also implies that agencies and authorities accept the freedom of a former detainee to go his own way within the limits of the law.

The authors

  • Daan Weggemans is a PhD candidate of the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism at Leiden University. His research interests are de-radicalisation and reintegration of violent extremists, the (legal) case of Anders Behring Breivik and the new terrorismstrategies and technologies.
  • Beatrice de Graaf is a professor of History of International Relations & Global Governance at the Utrecht University.

Police and Science research program

This study is part of the Police and Science research program. For more information about this program, please contact Annemieke Venderbosch, program director Police & Science.


After release; a study on recidivism and reintegration of jihadist former detainees.
By D.J. Weggemans en B.A. De Graaf. Politiewetenschap 81 Politie en Wetenschap, Apeldoorn; Reed Business, Amsterdam 2015.

You can download the report (in Dutch) for free on www.politieenwetenschap.nl.

In the media


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