New treatment for sex offenders reduces repeat crimes by 70%
The COSA programme has been introduced in Canada and UK but not in Ireland
Not the answer: “If we are concerned about public safety, we should be investing in treatment, not just in prison.”
Sex offenders are 70 per cent less likely to reoffend if they are part of a restorative justice programme which exists in other countries but has not yet been introduced in Ireland, a conference heard yesterday.
The Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) programme was developed in Canada and 100 such programmes are now in operation in the UK for sex offenders who have been released from prison.
The programme works on the basis that a sex offender will be helped by named volunteers and professional mental health workers who monitor them and reintegrate them into the community.
Professor Derek Perkins, a psychologist at Broadmoor High Secure Hospital in England, told the Psychological Society of Ireland annual conference in Sligo that the results of COSA programmes were very promising in relation to sex offenders.
In general, treatment has a positive effect. An analysis of 22,000 sex offenders worldwide, who had gone through treatment programmes, found there was a 37 per cent reduction in sexual offending, a 44 per cent decrease in violent offending and a 31 per cent reduction in general recidivism.
He said international studies had shown that by contrast, those sex offenders who went to jail and received no treatment were more likely to offend when they came out.
“If we are concerned about public safety, we should be investing in treatment, not just in prison,” he said.
For that reason, he added, it was better to treat sex offenders than just to jail them.
Factors in reoffence
Prof Perkins said two factors led to sexual crime recidivism: sexual deviancy – a form of sexual activity whereby people were more aroused by illegal behaviour – and psychopathic personality traits including antisocial beliefs, lack of empathy for others and general irresponsibility.
He said one in 10 members of the general public had been sexually abused, but the figures for sex offenders were between 30 per cent and 50 per cent.