Wow. I didn’t know such a facility existed.
More than 3,300 inmates have “graduated” from the centre since 2005, according to the staff, including 123 who have been in Guantanamo Bay. The success rate, they said, is 80% with the remaining 20% returning to violence. (A similar scheme I visited in Yemen in 2003 had a significantly lower success rate).
Inmates spend a minimum of three months at the centre before being assessed to see if they ready for release, Their overall programme is divided into three parts:
- A counselling phase, which takes place while they are still in prison and before they arrive at the centre
- Rehabilitation (“ta’heel” in Arabic) comprising cognitive behaviour programmes, art, culture, religious and sports activities
- After care. This continues after their release into society
“Welcome to the oasis of wisdom,” said Dr Hamid Al-Shayri, a sociologist from King Saud University. “This is where we try to steer them away from their deviant path so they no longer present a danger to society.”
He said his staff sit with the inmates for several hours a day, but added: “It’s not an easy task to get people to stop hating society and their families.
Art therapy plays a big role in their rehabilitation, according to their art teacher, Dr Badr Al-Razin. He told me that when they first arrive, many of the ex-convicts want to paint crude, violent images, often in red, but over time their images soften and become gentler.
Religious scholars are on hand at all times, men with a profound knowledge of Islam, who try to use this to explain why the aims and actions of violent jihadists are “haram” (forbidden).