This is the Final Summary Overview for a study that analyzed the disengagement, desistance, and de-radicalization processes of three samples of extremists in the United States.
One sample consisted of a quantitative dataset of 300 far-right, far-left Islamist and single-issue extremists. A second sample involved case studies of 50 far-right extremists; and a third sample consisted of 41 life-course interviews with former far-right, far-left, and Islamist extremists. The data from these samples were used to determine 1) the impact of ideology on patterns of desistance, disengagement, and de-radicalization; 2) the frequency of barriers to disengagement in the exit trajectories of extremists; 3) how often extremists cited push/pull factors as critical to their exit processes; 4) how often individuals desisted from extremist behaviors but remained involved in non-extremist criminal activities or radical social networks and whether these individuals were at heightened risk for relapse into violent extremism; 5) how personal characteristics, social relationships, emotions, and beliefs combined to produce distinctive exit pathways; and 6) the impact interventions have on individuals’ extremist beliefs, behaviors, and social networks. Quantitative and qualitative research methods for addressing these issues are described. The analysis of the quantitative data indicated significant diversity among U.S. extremists regarding exit outcomes, disengagement barriers, and push/pull factors. Of the 300 individuals included in the sample, 120 (40 percent) successfully disengaged from an extremist group and eventually desisted from all forms of criminal activity; however, there was insufficient evidence available to determine whether they had altered their underlying belief system; and the change processes were often characterized by periods of criminal activity. A total of 100 individuals (33.7 percent) evidenced reaching all three exit outcomes (disengagement, desistance, and de-radicalization); 65 (21.7 percent) desisted from further criminal activity while staying engaged with an extremist group and/or continuing to adhere to extremist beliefs. 1 figure, 1 table, and a list of project publications