Caitlin Dearing Scott, MAC
July 8, 2015
According to the Mohammed VI Foundation for the Reintegration of Detainees, Morocco’s rate of recidivism is on the decline, dropping from 3% to 2.3% over the last year.
There are several plausible explanations for this. For one, Morocco has acknowledged how real the threat of recidivism is, an important first step. For another, this acknowledgement – and commitment to address the problem – has support at the highest levels of government. King Mohammed VI himself has personally engaged on the matter. Much of the work to address recidivism, by focusing on improving the economic well-being of former inmates, is done through the King’s Foundation, which provides educational opportunities and vocational training to detainees to help them get jobs after their release from prison. The foundation’s latest project – inaugurated by King Mohammed VI in early July – is a support program for micro-projects and self-employment. More than 300 former inmates are expected to benefit from the 5-million-dirham program.
And, since reintegration is about more than just gainful employment, the Foundation strategy also focuses on social reintegration as part of its larger mission that aims at “reinforcing societal security, fighting delinquency, reducing recidivism and creating income-generating activities through improving the quality of life of former prisoners.”
Of course, much of this couldn’t be done without support from other civil society, private, and government actors – and cooperation between the Foundation, the Penitentiary and Reintegration Administration, and other government Ministries like the Ministry of Vocational Training. As Mohamed Saleh Tamek, Delegate-General of the Penitentiary Administration, noted in a talk on the issue at the Washington Institute, “these public-private partnerships are critical to reintegration because employment and skill development reduce recidivism, and the government cannot get every prisoner a job on its own.”
And while Islamic extremists only account for a small number of those in prison in Morocco, specific efforts to address recidivism among their ranks also play a key role. Beyond religious supervision of Morocco’s prison system to promote deradicalization through direct engagement by religious officials, Morocco has a powerful example to follow about the benefits of renouncing violence – the case of Mohamed Fizazi. A former radical Salafist preacher well known for preaching violence and jailed in connection with the 2003 Casablanca bombings, Fizazi was “successfully deradicalized,” released from prison in 2011 through a royal pardon, and in 2014 led Friday prayers in the King’s presence in Tangiers.
Morocco has certainly come a long way in its effort, and its focus on this issue must be maintained. In light of increasing concerns about the return of foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq, these efforts to deradicalize and reintegrate prisoners are all the more important to Morocco’s stability and security.