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Research and Evaluation on Domestic Radicalization to Violent Extremism: Research to Support Exit USA

NCJ Number
Matthew DeMichele; Peter Simi; Kathleen Blee
Date Published
15 pages

Since research on the trajectories of former members of extremist organizations is limited, the current study addressed this research gap by obtaining firsthand accounts from former members of White supremacist organizations in the United States.


Based on these accounts, this study constructed the social and psychological processes involved in exiting from domestic extremist organizations. This was done by analyzing the detailed life-history accounts of 47 former domestic extremists. Analysis of the accounts drew from leading theories of social behavior (i.e., identity theory) and crime (e.g., desistence theory). This includes an analysis of the cognitive work involved in dismantling their racist identities and no longer supporting violent movements. Identity theories are used to frame the life histories that involve becoming a racial extremist and then rejecting this identity. Each interview concluded with structured questions that provided comparable information across interviewees in terms of risk factors. The study identified four areas in the findings that can contribute to criminal justice policy and practice: knowledge and awareness, missed opportunities, community supervision, and community partnerships. Many community corrections agencies have adopted a risk, needs, and responsivity model, and officers should determine whether individuals are affiliated with extremist groups. It is important that supervision conditions be responsive to whether an individual is involved with extremism. It is also important for law enforcement, courts, and corrections to develop referral relationships with local resources that can facilitate leaving the sphere of extremist groups. 2 tables, 11 references, and listings of project-related publications and presentations