Taking Responsibility - Breaking away from Hate and Violence
Why develop a Jail Project with violent juvenile extremists?
Each year statistics display thousands of juvenile delinquents convicted of violent, bias-motivated crimes. Existing programmes aimed at countering right-wing extremism, xenophobia, fundamentalism and the willingness to use violence have yet failed to address this specific target group. We consider the task of acting upon this phenomenon of bias-motivated violent crimes as part of society’s responsibility: what can be done to alter a youths right-wing extremist/fundamentalist orientation and to enable him for a violence-free life outside violence-prone groups and milieus? Methods and projects tackling this challenge have been rare; anti-aggression-and anti-violence trainings have a unilateral focus on controlling emotional movements and show little effect on these adolescents. Classical forms of civic education quickly reach their limits.
Addressing juvenile convicts sentenced for committing a violent crime, "Taking Responsibility - Breaking away from Hate and Violence" applies an innovative deradicalizing approach. The special trainings concept, developed by experienced experts in violence and extremism prevention, relies upon three pillars:
- Any individual is capable of changing his/her attitude
- To lead a life free of violence, certain competences (responsibility, self-reflection, ability to build relationships and distance oneself from radical groups etc.) are necessary
- Those competences can be learned
Based on the principle of voluntary participation 8 participants/group attend weekly group training sessions over a period of approximately five months, each group conducted by 2 certified, external trainers. The training combines approaches and elements from behavioural and group psychotherapy and educational theory of confusing and constructive conflict-solving theory. The key to the effectiveness and success of this method lies in the combination of biographical processing and political-historical education, of having active discussions and debates in prison, of involving family and relatives, and of giving the youths guidance upon their release from prison.
Combining group training and one on one coaching, the youths existing abilities and resources are strengthened, behavioural changes can be achieved, violence-free behavior learned, and distance to the extremist scene developed. Avoiding indignation, this process-oriented training is based on a respectful interaction with the participants, strengthening self-determination and the ability to resist peer pressure. It thus provides an example of an innovative educational and deradicalizing method that has opened up new ways of working with violent, extremist oriented youths.
The project started in 2001 and is still running.
Last review: September 2014.