‘The importance of rehabilitation and reintegration in addressing this pressing national security threat cannot be understated…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) Dozens of terror-related convicts are approaching the end of their prison terms, sparking a debate over whether they should be allowed to reenter society and, if so, how to rehabilitate them.
The U.S. doesn’t have a comprehensive policy for re-introducing terrorists into society, says the Counter Extremism Project.
The group’s founders, Mitch Silber and Jesse Morton, wrote a report that claims rehabilitation for these individuals is necessary for national security.
“Since 9/11, the United States has prosecuted more than 400 jihadi terrorists,” Silber and Morton said in a statement. “For the overwhelming majority of them, the time for imprisonment is coming to an end and their chance to re-enter society has arrived. The decisions we make now will impact the next stage of counterterrorism strategy, especially in reducing terrorist recidivism. The importance of rehabilitation and reintegration in addressing this pressing national security threat cannot be understated.”
In an effort to fill the gap in this area of its counterterrorism strategy, House Republicans introduced the TRACER Act earlier this year, which establishes a national database similar to the sex offender registry.
Upon release, a terror convict’s information is sent to state and federal authorities, who can then be able to track the activities of these individuals.
The House passed the bill on Sept. 12, but the Senate has not yet taken up the bill.
“This is a blind spot right now when it comes to counterterrorism policy,” Seamus Hughes, who oversees the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told The Hill. “We have nothing right now. There are programs for re-entry for gang members to get out of jail and there is not that right now for terrorism.”
Silber and Morton said it’s likely terror-related convicts will end up back in prison for some kind of offense, albeit at a much lower rate than other federal prisoners.
Richard Clarke, the chief counterterrorism adviser for the National Security Council during 9/11, said each convicted terrorist should be assigned “specially trained parole officers” to monitor their activities.
But some argue this observance would be a violation of their rights and that terror convicts shouldn’t be treated differently than other federal prisoners.
“I do not distinguish them as any more dangerous than other people who might have been apprehended before they committed a crime or people who were convicted of committing a crime,” said Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham University’s Center on National Security.
By the end of 2025, more than 72 convicted terrorists will have served out their sentences, according to the New America Foundation.
At least 55 individuals have already been released from prison, and 25 more will be released by the end of 2021.
Many of these individuals directly aided a terrorist organization, by sending money, using propaganda, or inflicting violence on other Americans.
“The real question,” Mary McCord, who previously led the Justice Department’s national security division, told the Wall Street Journal, “is does the government need to be more proactive in ensuring that these people won’t present ongoing threats once they’re released?”