Saudi experts said Saudi Arabia’s program, which provides a new opportunity for young offenders who have been sentenced to prison for joining extremist organizations, has achieved excellent results in terms of reintegrating them into society.
For more than 10 years, the leading program in combating opportunistic extremism, job skills and support to reintegrate youth offenders into society has served as a model for other countries.
Abdullah Al-Muqrin, a lecturer at Umm Al-Qura University, said: "The program was launched after the establishment of the Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care in the cities of Jeddah and Riyadh."
Al-Muqrin added that young people who joined organizations such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (without urging anyone to participate) were allowed to participate after serving their prison sentences.
He pointed out that "the treatment takes place in centers that do not resemble prisons at all, but is a reform educational social-religious." The treatment, which may last up to three years, aims to fully rehabilitate the perpetrators by preparing them for reintegration into society and by helping them develop their skills that will allow them to enter the labor market.
He also pointed out that the program aims to confront extremist ideology through the dissemination of moderate thought, stressing that it is one of the most important tools to combat terrorism. "He is developing the national spirit that the terrorists are trying to erase by lying and distorting the legitimacy. After spending the required period, the young man enjoys intellectual immunity from deviant ideas," he said.
An updated program Al-Muqrin pointed out that a number of changes have been made to the program since it was launched so that it can address the thinking of young offenders more accurately.
He explained that these amendments include the building of bridges of trust by giving participants ten days leave to go to their homes and "return to normal family atmosphere." For his part, said Fadhil Hindi supervisor at the Center for Human and Social Research of the University of King Abdul Aziz, that the remarkable thing in the program and not known to many, is that the program also includes members of the Shiite community. Extremism and terrorism are not the exclusive preserve of a sect or entity, but all are exposed to falling into this trap.
"The program actually begins in prison after the verdict," he said. The first period of treatment is in prison. The second phase began with the end of the prison term when the person concerned was transferred to a care center. In the third stage, the perpetrator prepares to return to society. "Security efforts with terrorists, arresting them and bringing them to justice are not enough," he said.
He explained that without it, perpetrators could return to committing crimes and turn into time bombs that could explode at any time or place.
In the return to criminality, Bassam al-Subaie, a lecturer at the Faculty of Sharia at King Saud University, said that 3303 young people had undergone the program with a success rate of approximately 85%.
He stressed that "there is a period of some danger is far from the final release, where the personality is subject to tremors, either successfully overcome or get a setback."
Al-Subaie said that the activities of the program include families that need counseling, pointing out that these cases include people on the verge of falling into extremism, but they do not pose a threat to society. "In these cases, the families call the center to report [on the person concerned] to provide counseling," he said, adding that women were also included in the program. In the course of the remedial program, lecturers and participants were examining the extremist ideas that had been planted in the minds of the perpetrators.
He concluded by saying that "these ideas are then studied to reach the best outcome to confront them.