De-radicalization versus Deprogramming: Similarities and Differences in Programs to Encourage Desistance

De-radicalization programs have been of considerable interest in recent years as the threat of terrorism has become of great concern in many nations. This presentation will describe various de-radicalization programs that have been developed by governments seeking to convince people to desist from terrorist activities. Some programs focus mainly on ideological change of ‘conversion,’ while others focus on behavioral change that deters terrorist activities. Incentives to encourage desistance of active terrorists as well as imprisoned ones vary greatly, as does the effectiveness of such programs.

Deprogramming is a term applied to various ways of seeking to encourage or even forcing disaffiliation from newer unpopular religious groups (sometimes called ‘sects’ or ‘cults’) that have developed in the past several decades in different nations. A typology of deprogramming approaches is presented, varying from private self-help (such as occurred often in the U.S. and Japan), self-help with governmental acquiesce and covert efforts by governments to encourage or force disaffiliation, to total government involvement with all institutions devoted to the effort (as has occurred with the Chinese effort to stamp out the Falun Gong). A comparison of de-radicalization  programs with various types of deprogramming in terms of similarities and differences yields interesting information for policy makers and for those interested in human and civil rights.

James T. Richardson
(opens in a new window), J.D., Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology and Judicial Studies and Director of the Grant Sawyer Center for Justice Studies (opens in a new window) at the University of Nevada, Reno. He also is director of the Judicial Studies graduate degree program for trial judges, a program offered in conjunction with the National Judicial College and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, both of which are headquartered on the University campus. His research focuses mostly on comparative studies of law and religion and on use of expert evidence in legal systems. Recently he has been doing research on treatment of religion and religious groups in judicial systems such as constitutional courts and the European Court of Human Rights. He is the author of many books including Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe  (Kluwer, 2004).
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