Facing Jihad's Risk a Corrections Issue, Inside Guantanamo and Out

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More Detainees Returning to Terror, Reports Suggest

Validity in risk assessment invariably draws from statistics and actuarial approaches. The statistics on released Guantanamo detainees who return to active battle are a source of consternation to those invested in the notion that only a few detainees could pose future harm. As recently as 2008, the recidivism rate was reported at 6 percent. That figure has climbed steadily and sharply upward, and a recent updated report from the Director of National Intelligence now asserts that 25 percent of released Guantanamo detainees have recidivated -- and over half of these combatants (83) are actually at large. What the U.S. government does not disclose is that their figures are a significant underestimation, for many reasons.

1) Government figures include those who remain in foreign jails and therefore have no opportunity to recidivate.

2) Released detainees often change their names, identity papers and countries and therefore cannot be accounted for.

3) The infrastructure to which many detainees are released is not equipped to monitor the nature of their activities as would parole officers and other features of Western societies. It is far easier to operate off the grid and therefore seemingly uninvolved in violent Jihadism.

4) Those who are more senior, such as the leaders of al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), can be far more destructive by inspiring others than actually engaging in armed hostilities (as they did when younger).

Forensic psychiatry does not only concern itself with risk assessment, but also the appraisal of how to reduce risk as well. In that regard, some Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen, mindful of the anti-government agenda of their own Jihadists, developed what have come to be known as "deradicalization" programs.

Multidisciplinary initiatives, primarily emphasizing religious intervention, engage the misguided into a re-education about the Koran's message being one of non-violence rather than the apocalyptic nihilism of Islamist favor. If inmates' families repudiate Jihadism and take responsibility for their evolution, if the inmate has no serious violence history, the combination of reeducation in a peaceful strain of Islam with social and vocational reintegration and pro-social outlets for inflamed passion (such as marriage) has been more successful.

The premise is a sensible one; Jihadism is a phenomenon of religious ideology and inspiration, not a mental illness. The pious Imam is more potent than would be any psychotherapist or antipsychotic medication. Even more powerful are those programs whose deradicalization Imams come from a life in terrorism, and can attest to how terror practitioners will know no paradise. Of those programs, the deradicalization that enjoys the greatest success is not surprisingly the most regulated program: that of Singapore.

'Deradicalization' a Challenge

Unfortunately, closer study reveals that in Saudi Arabia, for example, those in Interior Minister Prince Nayef's ballyhooed deradicalization programs are redirected only to avoid attacking the kingdom itself. This not-in-my-neighborhood band-aid is partly to blame for Saudi Jihadists moving to the greater flexibility they exploit in neighboring Yemen, while training their sights on airliners and Chicago synagogues alike.

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