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Does the Healthy Identity Intervention help tackle terrorism?
An outcome evaluation of the Healthy Identity Intervention designed to address the psychological and social factors of extremism.

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The Healthy Identity Intervention

His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service has just (30 March 2023) published an interim outcome evaluation of the Health Identity Intervention (HII). HII is an accredited offending behaviour programme  designed to address the psychological and social (i.e., psychosocial) factors impacting individual engagement and involvement in extremism. The evaluation comprised three studies which set out to:

  1. Explore the short-term outcomes associated with completing the HII on various indicators of change over time, for individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-connected offences,
  2. Explore what psychosocial factors are being affected (if any) as a result of participation in the programme, and 
  3. Shed light on individual pathways out of extremism, to inform the evidence base, and provide recommendations to inform the further development and refinement of HII.

The evaluation

A short-term outcome evaluation of the HII was undertaken between 2017 and 2020. It included three studies conducted by researchers (Carys Keane, Victoria Parkinson, Chloe Dower & Ian Elliott) at different time points:

  1. Secondary data analysis was conducted to quantify any indications of change as a result of participation in the HII for a sample of 70 individuals convicted of terrorism or terrorism-connected offences.
  2. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) of three individuals’ experiences of the HII.
  3. Inductive Thematic Analysis of a sample of 30 post-HII intervention reports to examine reported progress indicators for desistance or disengagement.

Quantitative findings

The results of the quantitative pre- and post- HII measures analysis indicate that positive change was demonstrated as a result of participation in the HII. In two of the three measures used to explore these changes, there was statistically significant positive pre-to-post change.

  • Extremism Risk Guidance 22+ ratings were significantly lower post-HII than pre-HII  across the Engagement and Intent dimensions.
  • The Extremism Behavioural Indicator  Measure found significant positive pre-to-post changes to intent and skills domain. No significant pre-to-post changes were found to disillusionment and identity domains.
  • The actuarial elements of the Offender Assessment System (OASys) found no statistically significant pre-to-post results.

Qualitative findings

Qualitative findings from the IPA study related to four themes.

  1. Positive changes: from initial anxiety to positive feelings of accomplishment at intervention completion. Learning and developing skills was key to positive change.
  2. Re-defining personal identity: increased understanding of their personal identity, development of prosocial aspects of individual identity and positive future priorities for their lives.
  3. Practical factors: relationship with the facilitator is important (i.e., therapeutic alliance), personal assignments are viewed as beneficial to reflection, re-examination and consolidation of in-session work, and post intervention reports that provide clear objectives are viewed positively by the participants.
  4.  Future hopes: family and career were viewed as having increasing importance to participants in forging new pro-social goals, but also individual concerns about community resettlement and their need for support with reintegration.

Qualitative findings from the thematic analysis relate to three key areas: disillusionment, social networks and identity.

  • In 29 of the sampled 30 post-intervention reports, progress following completion of HII was recorded. This included repeated observations of disillusionment with continued involvement in extremism, positive changes in social network and identity.
  • The majority of themes were shared across the Islamist-influenced and other extremist groups in the sample except for loss of position (politically motivated groups), not wanting to be viewed negatively (Islamist-influenced extremists) and internal conflict (Islamist-influenced extremists).
  • Compared to the other groups (politically motivated and single-issue motivated extremism), the Islamist-influenced extremist group reported themes of not wanting to be viewed negatively by others. 

Conclusion

The researchers conclude that, taken together, the findings from the three separate studies provide initial evidence that suggests that the HII does appear to address some of the psychosocial factors impacting engagement and involvement in an extremist group, cause or ideology.

They say that the HII may play an important role in reducing reoffending and protecting the public and should, where appropriate, be offered as part of a wider package of rehabilitative activities to individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-connected offences.

The authors also conclude that the HII could be further developed to better attend to some factors relevant to individual desistance and disengagement from extremism. For example, consideration should be given to restructuring the HII; retaining the core modules but tailoring additional optional modules that more closely align to individual progress towards desistance and disengagement.

 

Thanks to Kyle Glenn for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

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