Responding to the Challenges of Violent Extremism/Terrorism Cases for United States Probation and Pretrial Services

Kevin Lowry


This article is intended to share the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Probation and Pretrial Services’ experiences, knowledge, practices, and processes for working with extremist/terrorist defendants and offenders with other criminal justice professionals.  Over the past decade, the District of Minnesota has been challenged with meeting the demands of more jihadist-type extremist cases than any district in the United States. The Federal Judiciary’s Probation and Pretrial Services national system does not have specialized risk and needs assessment tools, intervention strategies for disengagement and rehabilitation programming, or specific supervision practices for working with this new generation of extremist/terrorism participants.  After conducting extensive research, the District selected international experts to provide training and tools for working with extremists that range from jihadists to white supremacists.  The District has implemented a team-based approach for working with extremists to include combining current Probation and Pretrial Services practices with programming developed by Expert Consultant Daniel Koehler, Director of the German Institute on Radicalization and Deradicalization Studies (GIRDS), and a risk assessment tool and manualized intervention strategies developed by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service of the United Kingdom.  By necessity, the District of Minnesota has become both a training hub and experimental lab for developing the first of its kind of practices for working with extremist cases in the United States.  The District of Minnesota has developed the Minnesota Probation and Pretrial Services Justice Model of Intervention, Disengagement, and Rehabilitation for working with extremists.  This model of specialized tools, training, and knowledge has been incorporated into assessing release or detention of defendants pending trial, identifying pretrial release conditions, determining appropriate sentence recommendations, and developing the necessary special conditions for community supervision to ensure both public safety and disengagement from extremism as components of the rehabilitation process. 


Radicalization; Intervention; Disengagement; Violent Extremism; Terrorism

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