Evaluating Terrorist and Extremist Reintegration Programming: A Systematic Literature Review


  • Megan K. McBride Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Marley Carroll Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Jessa Mellea Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Diána Hughes Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Elena Savoia Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health


Systematic Literature Review, Extremism, Terrorism, Deradicalization, Reintegration, Tertiary Prevention, State of the Art


This systematic literature review focuses on the evaluation of programs or interventions designed to deradicalize, disengage, rehabilitate, and/or reintegrate terrorists and/or extremists. Though a robust literature describing such interventions exists, it has long been recognized that more data are needed on the effectiveness of programs designed to facilitate reintegration. Thus, the objective of this review is to present an overview of academic and grey literature on the evaluation of programming designed to facilitate the deradicalization, disengagement, rehabilitation, and/or reintegration of terrorists and/or extremists. Our initial queries yielded 271 seemingly relevant peer-reviewed and grey literature articles, but after a more robust screening we determined that only 37 of those articles directly related to the evaluation of interventions. These articles are presented by evaluation design (e.g., quantitative, qualitative); we also review the evaluation mechanisms (e.g., survey, interviews, note review), study design (e.g., experimental, quasi-experimental), data types (i.e., quantitative or qualitative), and findings. Finally, we include ten articles discussing theory of program evaluation. Though the review is limited to available data (e.g., not including unpublished evaluations or government evaluations), we conclude by discussing the state of program evaluation relating to interventions designed to deradicalize, disengage, rehabilitate, and/or reintegrate terrorists and/or extremists, and offering several recommendations for how to improve evaluation methods and overcome barriers to evaluation.


This project was made possible by funding and support from the National Institute of Justice (Applying a Developmental Evaluation Approach to Address Community Safety and Health Challenges of Reintegration Programs in the USA - Award Number 2019-ZA-CX-001). The content of this manuscript, as well as the views and discussions expressed, are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of any of the above institutions, nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.


Alonso, R., & Diáz Bada, J. (2016). What Role Have Former ETA Terrorists Played in Counterterrorism and Counterradicalization Initiatives in Spain?. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 39(11), 982-1006.

Alyami, A. M. S. (2015). The role of art therapy in counterterrorism: The Saudi experience. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 44, 1-10. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2015.04.003.

Altier, M. B., Leonard Boyle, E., Shortland, N. D., & Horgan, J. G. (2017). Why they leave: An analysis of terrorist disengagement events from eighty-seven autobiographical accounts. Security Studies, 26(2), 305-332.

Altier, M. B., Thoroughgood, C. N., & Horgan, J. G. (2014). Turning away from terrorism: Lessons from psychology, sociology, and criminology. Journal of peace research, 51(5), 647-661.

Andersen, H. S. (2010). The challenge of extremism: Examples of deradicalisation and disengagement programmes in the EU. Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and, and Integration Affairs.

Andrews, S. (2020). Prevent tragedies: A case study in female-targeted strategic communications in the United Kingdom’s Prevent counter-terrorism policy. Journal for Deradicalization, (24), 1-39.

Anindya, C. R. (2019). The deradicalisation programme for Indonesian deportees: A vacuum in coordination. Journal for Deradicalization, (18), 217-243.

Ashour, O. (2007). Lions tamed? an inquiry into the causes of de-radicalization of armed Islamist movements: The case of the Egyptian Islamic Group. The Middle East Journal, 61(4), 596–625. https://doi.org/10.3751/61.4.12.

Awan, I. (2013). Muslim prisoners, radicalization and rehabilitation in British prisons. Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, 33(3), 371–384. https://doi.org/10.1080/13602004.2013.853979.

Azam, Z., & Fatima, S. B. (2017). Mishal: a case study of a deradicalization and emancipation program in Swat Valley, Pakistan. Journal for Deradicalization, (11), 1-29.

Barkindo, A. & Bryans, S. (2016). De-Radicalising Prisoners in Nigeria: developing a basic prison based de-radicalisation programme. Journal for Deradicalization, (7).

Basit, A. (2015). Countering Violent Extremism: Evaluating Pakistan’s Counter-Radicalization and De-radicalization Initiatives. IPRI Journal, 2, 44-68.

Bastug, M. F., & Evlek, U. K. (2016). Individual disengagement and deradicalization pilot program in Turkey: methods and outcomes. Journal for Deradicalization, (8), 25-45.

Beaghley, S., Helmus, T. C., Matthews, M., Ramchand, R., Stebbins, D., Kadlec, A., & Brown, M. A. (2017). Development and pilot test of the RAND Program Evaluation Toolkit for Violent Extremism. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR1700/RR1799/RAND_RR1799.pdf.

Bellasio, J., Hofman, J., Ward, A., Nederveen, F., Knack, A., Meranto, A. S., & Hoorens, S. (2018). Counterterrorism evaluation: Taking stock and looking ahead. RAND Corporation.

Bertram, L. (2015). How Could a Terrorist be De-Radicalised?. Journal for Deradicalization, (5), 120-149.

bin Hassan, M. H. & Pereire, K. G. (2006). An ideological response to combating terrorism — the Singapore perspective. Small Wars and Insurgencies, 17(4), 458-477. DOI: 10.1080/09592310601060815.

Braun, K. (2018). ‘Home, Sweet Home’: Managing Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Germany, The United Kingdom and Australia. International community law review, 20(3-4), 311-346.

Bubolz, B. F., & Simi, P. (2015). Leaving the world of hate: Life-course transitions and self-change. American Behavioral Scientist, 59(12), 1588-1608.

Campelo, N., Bouzar, L., Oppetit, A., Pellerin, H., Hefez, S., Bronsard, G., Cohen, D., & Bouzar, D. (2018). Joining the Islamic State from France between 2014 and 2016: An observational follow-up study. Palgrave Communications 4(137), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-018-0191-8.

Cano Paños, M. A. (2018). Fighting the Jihadist threat beyond criminal law: Analysis of programs to prevent radicalization and de-radicalization at the European Level. Revista de Estudios en Seguridad Internacional.

Chermak, S., & Gruenewald, J. A. (2015). Laying a foundation for the criminological examination of right-wing, left-wing, and Al Qaeda-inspired extremism in the United States. Terrorism and Political Violence 27(1), 133-159.

Cherney, A. (2018). Supporting disengagement and reintegration: Qualitative outcomes from a custody-based counter radicalisation intervention. Journal for Deradicalization, (17), 1-27. https://journals.sfu.ca/jd/index.php/jd/article/view/174.

Cherney, A. (2020). Evaluating interventions to disengage extremist offenders: A study of the Proactive Integrated Support Model (PRISM). Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression 12(1), 17-36. https://doi.org/10.1080/19434472.2018.1495661.

Cherney, A., & Belton, E. (2021). Evaluating case-managed approaches to counter radicalization and violent extremism: An example of the Proactive Integrated Support Model (PRISM) intervention. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 44(8), 625-645. https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610X.2019.1577016.

Christensen, T. W. (2015). How extremist experiences become valuable knowledge in EXIT programmes. Journal for Deradicalization, (3), 92-134.

Corner, E., & Gill, P. (2019). Psychological distress, terrorist involvement and disengagement from terrorism: A sequence analysis approach. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 36(3), 499–526. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-019-09420-1.

da Silva, R., Fernández-Navarro, P., Gonçalves, M. M., Rosa, C., & Silva, J. (2019). Tracking narrative change in the context of extremism and terrorism: Adapting the innovative moments coding system. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 47, 204-214. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2019.05.002.

Daugherty, C.E. (2019). Deradicalization and disengagement: Exit programs in Norway and Sweden and addressing neo-Nazi extremism. Journal for Deradicalization, (21), 219-260.

De Jong, J. T. V. M. (2010). A public health framework to translate risk factors related to political violence and war into multi-level preventive interventions. Social Science & Medicine, 70(1), 71-79.

Disley, E., Weed, K., Reding, A., Clutterbuck, L., & Warnes, R. (2011). Individual disengagement from Al Qa'ida-influenced terrorist groups: A rapid evidence assessment to inform policy and practice in preventing terrorism. RAND Corporation.

Doosje, B., Moghaddam, F. M., Kruglanski, A. W., De Wolf, A., Mann, L., & Feddes, A. R. (2016). Terrorism, radicalization and de-radicalization. Current Opinion in Psychology, 11, 79-84.

Dugas, M., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2014). The quest for significance model of radicalization: Implications for the management of terrorist detainees. Behavioral Sciences and the Law 32, 423-439.

Ehiane, S. O. (2019). De-radicalisation and disengagement of the extremist group in Africa: the Nigerian experience. Journal of African Foreign Affairs, 6(2), 123-138.

Feddes, A.R., & Gallucci, M. (2015). A literature review on methodology used in evaluating effects of preventive and de-radicalisation interventions. Journal for Deradicalization, (5).

Fekete, L. (2015). Rewiring fascists: Behind the cult of Exit. Race & Class, 56(3), 91-101. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306396814556226.

Ferguson, N. (2016). Disengaging from terrorism: A Northern Irish experience. Journal for Deradicalization, (6), 1-28.

Frenett, R. & Dow, M. (2015). One to one online interventions – A pilot CVE methodology. Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

Ganor, B. & Falk, O. (2013). De-Radicalization in Israel's prison system. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 36(2), 116–131. https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610x.2013.747071.

Gielen, A.-J. (2018). Exit programmes for female jihadists: A proposal for conducting realistic evaluation of the Dutch approach. International Sociology, 33(4), 454–472. https://doi.org/10.1177/0268580918775586.

Götsch, K. (2017). Austria and the threats from Islamist radicalisation and terrorist involvement: An overview of governmental and non-governmental initiatives and policies. Journal for Deradicalization, (12), 169-191.

Grip, L., & Kotajoki, J. (2019). Deradicalisation, disengagement, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists in conflict-affected contexts: A systematic literature review. Conflict, Security & Development, 19(4), 371–402. https://doi.org/10.1080/14678802.2019.1626577.

Hasisi, B., Carmel, T., Weisburd, D., & Wolfowicz, M. (2020). Crime and terror: Examining criminal risk factors for terrorist recidivism. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 36(3), 449-472.

Heinke, D. H., & Raudszus, J. (2018). Germany’s Returning Foreign Fighters and What to Do About Them. Coolsaet and Renard (see note 16), 47-48.

Hellmuth, D. (2015). Countering jihadi radicals and foreign fighters in the United States and France: très similaire. Journal for Deradicalization, (4), 1-43.

Horgan, J. (2009). Deradicalization or disengagement? A process in need of clarity and a counterterrorism initiative in need of evaluation. Revista De Psicología Social, 24(2), 291–298. https://doi.org/10.1174/021347409788041408.

Horgan, J., & Braddock, K. (2010). Rehabilitating the terrorist?: Challenges in assessing the effectiveness of de-radicalization programs. Terrorism and Political Violence, 22, 267-291. DOI: 10.1080/09546551003594748.

Hwang, J. C., Panggabean, R., & Fauzi, I. A. (2013). The disengagement of jihadis in Poso, Indonesia. Asian Survey, 53(4), 754-777.

Khan, A. u. (2017). Pakistan’s Strategy of Countering Violent Extremism: Need for Soft Power. Issi.org. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://issi.org.pk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/10-SS_Asad_ullah_Khan_No-3_2017.pdf.

Koehler, D. (2015). De-radicalization and disengagement programs as counter-terrorism and prevention tools. Insights from field experiences regarding German right-wing extremism and jihadism. Countering radicalisation and violent extremism among youth to prevent terrorism, 118, 120-150.

Koehler, D. (2017a). How and why we should take deradicalization seriously. Nature Human Behaviour 1, 1-4.

Koehler, D. (2017b). Structural quality standards for work to intervene with and counter violent extremism. German Institute on Radicalisation and De-radicalisation Studies and Ministry of the Interior, Digitisation and Migration Baden-Württemberg. http://girds.org/publications/handbook-for-structural-quality-standards-in-deradicalization-work.

Koehler, D. (2020a). Stand-alone de-radicalisation programme evaluation tool for stakeholders. DARE: Dialogue About Radicalisation and Equality. https://www.dare-h2020.org/uploads/1/2/1/7/12176018/dare-de-radicalisation_evaluation_tool.pdf.

Koehler, D. (2020b). Terminology and definitions. In S. J. Hansen (Ed.), Routledge handbook of deradicalisation and disengagement (pp. 11-25). Routledge.

Konze, A. (2016). Deradicalisation of foreign fighters. Criminal Justice and Security in Central and Eastern Europe, 351(352), 277.

Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M. J., Belanger, J. J., Gunaratna, R., & Hettiarachchi, M. (2014a). De-radicalising the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). In A. Silke (Ed.), Prisons, terrorism and extremism: Critical issues in management, radicalisation and reform (pp. 183-196). Routledge.

Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M. J., Bélanger, J. J., Sheveland, A., Hetiarachchi, M., & Gunaratna, R. (2014b). The psychology of radicalization and deradicalization: How significance quest impacts violent extremism. Advances in Political Psychology 35(1), 69-93.

Kutner, S. (2016). The call for component analyses of the Saudi Arabian Risk Reduction Initiative: An examination of religious re-education’s role in the deradicalization and disengagement process. Journal for Deradicalization, (7), 107-123. https://journals.sfu.ca/jd/index.php/jd/article/view/59/50.

Leistedt, S. J. (2016). On the radicalization process. Journal of forensic sciences, 61(6), 1588-1591.

Marsden, S. V. (2015). Conceptualising ‘success’ with those convicted of terrorism offences: Aims, methods, and barriers to reintegration. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression 7(2), 143-165.

McManus, A. L. (2019). Egypt’s foreign terrorist fighters: Cycles of violence. In T. Renard (Ed.), Returnees in the Maghreb: Comparing policies on returning foreign fighters in Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia (pp. 9-23). Egmont Institute.

McRae, D. (2010). Reintegration and localised conflict: security impacts beyond influencing spoilers. Conflict, Security & Development, 10(3), 403-430.

Meloy, J. R., & Gill, P. (2016). The lone-actor terrorist and the TRAP-18. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management 3(1), 37-52.

Mitchell, S. (2016). Deradicalization: Using triggers for the development of a US program. Journal for Deradicalization, (9), 101-125. https://journals.sfu.ca/jd/index.php/jd/article/view/74.

Morrison, J. F., Silke, A., Maiberg, H., Slay, C., & Stewart, R. (2021). A Systematic Review Of Post-2017 Research On Disengagement And Deradicalisation. Full Report. Crest.

Onapajo, H. & Ozden, K. (2020). Non-military approach against terrorism in Nigeria: deradicalization strategies and challenges countering Boko Haram. Security Journal, 33, 476-492. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41284-020-00238-2.

Osman, S. (2014). Radicalisation, recidivism and rehabilitation: Convicted terrorists a. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved January 27, 2022, from https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.4324/9780203584323-15/radicalisation-recidivism-rehabilitation-sulastri-osman.

Page M. J., McKenzie J. E., Bossuyt P. M., Boutron I., Hoffmann T. C., Mulrow C. D. et al. The PRISMA 2020 statement: an updated guideline for reporting systematic reviews BMJ 2021; 372.

Parrin, A. (2016). Creating legal framework for terrorism defectors and detainees in Somalia. Columbia Journal of Transnational Law 55(1), 228-276.

Porges, M. L. (2010). Deradicalisation, the Yemeni way. Survival, 52(2), 27-33.

Richards, J. (2017). Demobilising and disengaging violent extremists: Towards a new UN framework. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.5334/sta.543.

Richards, J. (2018). High risk or low risk: Screening for violent extremists in DDR Programmes. International Peacekeeping, 25(3), 373–393. https://doi.org/10.1080/13533312.2018.1440177.

Rushchenko, J. (2019). Terrorist recruitment and prison radicalization: Assessing the UK experiment of ‘Separation Centres.’ European Journal of Criminology, 16(3), 295–314. https://doi.org/10.1177/1477370819828946.

San, S. (2020). Counter-terrorism policing innovations in Turkey: a case study of Turkish National Police CVE experiment. Policing & Society, 30(5), 583-598.

Savoia, E., McBride, M., Stern, J., Su, M., Harriman, N., Aziz, A., & Legault, R. (2020). Assessing the impact of the Boston CVE pilot program: A developmental evaluation approach. Homeland Security Affairs 16(6), 1-50. http://www.hsaj.org/articles/16166.

Schmid, A. P. (2013). Radicalisation, de-radicalisation, counter-radicalisation: A conceptual discussion and literature review. International Centre for Counter-Terrorism — The Hague 4, no. 2.

Schuurman, B. (2018). Becoming a European homegrown jihadist: A multilevel analysis of involvement in the Dutch Hofstadgroup, 2002-2005. Amsterdam University Press.

Schuurman, B., & Bakker, E. (2015). Reintegrating jihadist extremists: Evaluating a Dutch initiative, 2013–2014. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 8(1), 66–85. https://doi.org/10.1080/19434472.2015.1100648.

Silke, A. (2001). The devil you know: Continuing problems with research on terrorism. Terrorism and Political Violence, 13(4), 1-14.

Silke, A., & Schmidt-Petersen, J. (2017). The golden age? What the 100 most cited articles in terrorism studies tell us. Terrorism and Political Violence, 29(4), 692-712.

Sivenbring, J., & Andersson Malmros, R. (2020). Mixing logics: Multiagency approaches for countering violent extremism.

Souleimanov, E. A., & Aliyev, H. (2020). Ideology and disengagement: A case study of nationalists and Islamists in Chechnya. Europe-Asia Studies, 72(2), 314-330.

Spalek, B. (2016). Radicalisation, de-radicalisation and counter-radicalisation in relation to families: Key challenges for research, policy and practice. Security Journal, 29(1), 39-52.

Suarda, I. G. W. (2016). A literature review on indonesia’s deradicalization program for terrorist prisoners. Mimbar Hukum-Fakultas Hukum Universitas Gadjah Mada, 28(3), 526-543.

Sumpter, C. (2017). Countering violent extremism in Indonesia: priorities, practice and the role of civil society. Journal for Deradicalization, (11), 112-147.

van der Heide, E. J., & Schuurman, B. W. (2018). Reintegrating terrorists in the Netherlands: Evaluating the Dutch approach. Journal for Deradicalization, (17), 196-239.

Webber, D., Chernikova, M., Kruglanski, A. W., Gelfand, M. J., Hetiarachchi, M., Gunaratna, R., Lafreniere, M.-A, & Belanger, J. J. (2018). Deradicalizing detained terrorists. Political Psychology, 39(3), 539-556. doi: 10.1111/pops.12428.

Williams, M. J., & Kleinman, S. M. (2014). A utilization-focused guide for conducting terrorism risk reduction program evaluations. Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression, 6(2), 102-146. https://doi.org/10.1080/19434472.2013.860183.

Williams, M. J., & Lindsey, S. C. (2014). A social psychological critique of the Saudi terrorism risk reduction initiative. Psychology, Crime & Law, 20(2), 135-151. https://doi.org/10.1080/1068316X.2012.749474.

Webber, D., & Kruglanski, A. W. (2018). The social psychological makings of a terrorist. Current Opinion in Psychology, 19, 131–134. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2017.03.024.

Windisch, S., Scott Ligon, G., & Simi, P. (2017). Organizational [Dis]trust: Comparing Disengagement Among Former Left-Wing and Right-Wing Violent Extremists. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 42(6), 559–580. https://doi.org/10.1080/1057610x.2017.1404000.

Wittendorp, S., Bont, R. D., Bakker, E., & Roy van Zuijdewijn, J. D. (2017). Measures against Jihadist Foreign Fighters: A policy comparison between the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, the UK and the US (2010 to 2017). Measures against Jihadist Foreign Fighters: A policy comparison between the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, the UK and the US (2010 to 2017).

Yehoshua, S. (2014). The Israeli Experience of Terrorist Leaders in Prison: Issues in radicalisation and de-radicalisation. In Prisons, Terrorism and Extremism (pp. 144-156). Routledge.