Training community mentors is essential to prevent radicalisation
Recognising the key value of mentors in preventing radicalisation, the INTEGRA project developed and evaluated its mentoring model and programme.
The role of the community is crucial to an effective and integrated approach to preventing radicalisation. Community mentors are particularly useful in the context of prison and probation, given the importance of the community in the inmates’ transition from prison to society.
Mentoring refers to an interpersonal relationship of support, help and learning in which an experienced mentor offers their wisdom and experience to help the mentee achieve their goals. In the criminal justice system, this relationship aims to support offenders in the vulnerable period around their release and motivate them to live a crime-free life.
In this context, mentors can help individuals who are radicalised or vulnerable to the radicalisation process. A research study conducted by Orban, Norway, in 2019, showed that offenders’ feedback is very positive, as they report that mentors helped them with practical things, and also with religion, stress, anger and loneliness.
For this reason, the INTEGRA project highlights the importance of training mentors and is carrying out initiatives to accomplish this goal, namely with a pilot online training event, that took place on 15 and 16 December 2020.
This training included information, case studies and discussion on the fundamentals, concepts and processes of mentoring and radicalisation, particularly in prison settings, and examples of mentoring programmes.
The mentoring model was evaluated through this pilot training to ensure its adequacy and sustainability. Finetuning was the pilot’s primary goal, but it also allowed participants to explore and discuss the topics and provided them with skills and tools to be used in their professional activity.
The national (Portugal) pilot training was promoted by IPS_Innovative Prison Systems and was attended by more than a dozen community practitioners working with criminal justice, law enforcement officers and university students.
Participants in this pilot training now have a better understanding of what mentoring is and the role a mentor can play in preventing radicalisation. In addition, they received knowledge and practical advice on how to be a good mentor, develop a mentoring programme and properly develop a mentor-mentee relationship.
This pilot training event was also held by all the project’s partner organisations, in their respective countries, in order to fine-tune the model and better adapt it to each country’s specific context and needs.