Majority of sex offenders do not take part in prison treatment
New figures reveal most leave prison without having attended preventative programme
According to figures from 2010, 14 per cent of sexual offenders who serve a prison sentence will reoffend within three years of release. Photograph: iStock
The majority of sex offenders leave prison without attending Irish Prison Service’s sexual offending prevention programme, new figures show.
There are 400-450 sex offenders in Irish prisons at any one time, just one out of every 14 of whom is taking part in preventative treatment at any one time.
According to figures released to The Irish Times by the prison service, 29 offenders took part in its Building Better Lives (BBL) treatment programme in 2014. In 2015, 22 took part and in 2016 and the first half of 2017, 45 prisoners took part.
During this period, more than 400 sex offenders were released from prison. Of the 104 sex offenders released last year, about half had taken part in the programme during their sentence.
There are several reasons the take up of treatment is so low. The programme is voluntary and prisoners do not lose out on remission entitlements if they do not take part.
Offenders have to admit their guilt before taking part. A prison service spokesman said those who continue to deny their offence cannot take part but are still subject to risk assessments on their release.
It is also understood to be a demanding programme, with the main module involving 60-70 sessions of in-depth therapeutic work.
The programme is usually offered to prisoners as they approach the end of their sentence.
Incentives for participants
Studies show that forcing sex offenders to undergo treatment tends not to be effective, said Maeve Lewis, the executive director of One in Four, which provides treatment to sex offenders outside prison.
However, Ms Lewis believes more prisoners would take part if there was some incentive on offer.
“We have called for incentives to be put in place for prisoners who participate in that programme. That might be an offer of earlier release if they complete the programme which just might incentivise more guys to do it.”
The Department of Justice has previously pointed out that offenders who do not take part in the BBL programme may be enrolled in other addiction or psychiatric treatment programmes.
“In addition, I should emphasise that sexual offenders released from prison who are subject to notification requirements under the Sex Offenders Act 2001 are required to notify the Gardaí of any change in their home address,” then minster for justice Frances Fitzgerald told the Daíl earlier this year.
Risk of reoffending
The BBL programme was established in 2009. It has three stages and can involve group or individual work.
“The programme includes a high degree of challenge and support for participants, includes family meetings, and there is regular review and monitoring of the participants progress,” a prison service spokesman said.
It also involves planning for where the offender will live after their release from prison.
According to figures from 2010, the most recent available, 14 per cent of sexual offenders who serve a prison sentence will reoffend within three years of release.