Visiting scholar researches reintegration and crimes of terrorism

Mikel Anderez Belategi has been visiting the School of Law in order to pursue his research into ‘Reintegration and crimes of terrorism’. He is based in the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

Mikel has been analysing the law and policy in England and Wales in relation to the reintegration of prisoners, with a special focus on the rehabilitation of terrorists and radicalized offenders. This analysis will be part of his doctoral thesis which will be completed next year. He gave a seminar in the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies on this topic on 2 November 2016 and worked on his UK-based research with Professor Emeritus Clive Walker.

Sentencing practices with respect to terrorism are becoming increasingly severe across Europe. Current developments in the law of England and Wales point towards an increased emphasis on incapacitation as the paramount objective in this field, alongside with retribution and general deterrence. Recent penological responses in the continent have relied on the use of indeterminate sentences and longer determinate sentences in order to tackle the terrorist threat.

The growing emphasis on risk management has brought major challenges for our criminal justice systems, resulting in overcrowding and poor prison management which could produce further radicalization. While the option to ‘just lock them up’ may seem tempting, it is not likely to be effective from the perspective of risk management and it is not an option in the case of relatively short prison sentences imposed for less serious terrorist offences.

Recent legislative changes in Spain have also taken a risk-adverse approach. As a result, the ‘minimum terms’ that must be spent in custody have been considerably extended. Furthermore, after the 2003 prison reforms, terrorist offenders have been subjected to a different standard by adding other ‘symbolic’ requirements which are mandatory for the progression to a more lenient prison regime, most importantly the requirements of seeking pardon from the victims and collaboration with authorities.

The approach in the policy of England and Wales would seem to be more consistent with the principle of reintegration. But more research on specific treatment techniques is very much needed to tackle the problem of radicalized prisoners.