Exit Programmes: Better results call for an evaluation framework Silvia Bernardo September 24, 2021

Exit Programmes: Better results call for an evaluation framework

Aiming to improve the success of support (exit) programmes for individuals in extremist groups, new peer-reviewed paper studies data from current European initiatives.

“One Size does not fit all: Exploring the characteristics of Exit Programmes in Europe” is the self-descriptive name of the research article published on September 24th, 2021, in the Journal for Deradicalization Nº.28, that analyses exit interventions in seven European countries.

The article reflects that although exit programmes (i.e., rehabilitation initiatives directed at individuals wishing to abstain from violence or change their radical ideology) are numerous and growing in importance, not much was known about the characteristics of these interventions.

Innovative Prison Systems’ Pedro das Neves and Pedro Liberado, as well as fellow authors Vítor Costa, Graça Esgalhado and Ana Isabel Cunha from BSAFE LAB/University of Beira Interior, analysed interviews with seventeen practitioners about fourteen governmental and non-governmental exit programmes, dating from the 2000s up to ongoing projects.


Exploring opportunities for improvement of Exit Programmes

Among its main conclusions, the study found that these programmes need to implement common standards and indicators to evaluate the interventions’ effectiveness. This kind of systematisation would result in the collection of more reliable data through the process while improving current practices through the ability to measure the success rate of old and new intervention methods.

Additionally, it suggests that characteristics such as the initiatives’ goals, the role played by ideology, and contact approach, tend to differ considerably. At the same time, risk and needs assessment tools are used inconsistently, and evaluation procedures are unstructured and primarily qualitative.

This research paper also found that along with the abovementioned base differences, programmes should also separate initiatives by target ideology (right-wing extremism, Islamist extremism, and non-specified), variation of how much ideology was directly approached during the intervention, implementation setting (prison, probation, or community based), and by voluntary or involuntary approaches.


The article is based on contributions developed under the WayOut project

This research paper was partially funded by the European Union Internal Security Fund – Police (ISFP) within the scope of the WayOut project (Integrated Exit Programme for Prison and Probation). The project was promoted by the University Toulouse – Jean Jaurès from 2018 to 2021, whose goal was threefold: i) to build a methodological framework of exit programmes’ conceptualisation; ii) develop an evaluation framework targeting exit programmes’ understanding of ‘what works’; and iii) train prison and probation professionals on the topic.

WayOut involved an experienced consortium of partners, namely IPS_Innovative Prison Systems and BSAFE LAB/University of Beira Interior, both from Portugal; AVANS University of Applied Sciences – Centre of Expertise for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, from The Netherlands; the Federal Public Service of Justice – Belgian Prison Service, Belgium; the Bremen Senate of Justice and Constitution and Violence Prevention Network, from Germany.

The project has contributed to better the understanding and knowledge about the efficacy of exit programmes and improve and facilitate their implementation in criminal justice settings.


For further information about the WayOut project please visit its website.