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How Radicalization to Violent Extremism Occurs in the United States: What Research Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice Tells Us

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2018
27 pages
This report summarizes the findings of research sponsored by the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ's) Domestic Radicalization to Terrorism program, which addresses how radicalization to terrorism occurs in the United States, with a view toward the development of prevention and intervention strategies.
This paper provides a scientific overview of four NIJ-sponsored projects that examine radicalization to terrorism, which includes a table of characteristics of U.S.-based extremists included in highlighted efforts, the testing of an existing framework of radicalization to terrorism, behavioral indicators of stage progression in radicalization trajectories, the development of a new model of radicalization to terrorism among "lone wolves" in the United States, and the diversity of radicalization processes and pathways. At the individual level, the radicalization process often involves embracing the ideas and accompanying emotional dynamics of a terrorist belief system or narrative that identifies particular others or groups as "enemies" of a personal belief or way of life. This becomes the basis for justifying and energizing violence against them. It is important to note, however, that although these beliefs and behaviors may facilitate the evolution to terrorist acts, this is not an inevitable outcome. The friends and family members close to such individuals may become aware of the occurrence of such radicalization and address or seek help in preventing or countering violent actions. An important implication of this prevention factor is the need to make available to the public information and resources to guide and assist those concerned about radicalization that is occurring in a friend or family member. This assistance should focus on countering beliefs that justify violence as a strategy for promoting cherished beliefs and helping individuals adopt peaceful means for advocating their personal beliefs and identities. 3 tables, 2 figures, and 44 references

Date Published: June 1, 2018