Only 1 in 6 sex offenders avail of treatment in prison – Naughten

In Families by Denis Naughten

Of the 451 sex offenders released from prison in the three years up to the end of 2015, just 73 – or one in six – have availed of a treatment programme which could reduce the risk of reoffending, reveals Denis Naughten TD.“At present the voluntary Building Better Lives treatment programme is only available at Arbour Hill, prison which is definitely a factor in the uptake of treatment but this still cannot explain the small numbers accessing this important treatment,” stated Denis Naughten.

Back in 2009 a review led by the Department of Justice into the sentencing, treatment and monitoring of sex offenders recommended making early release of sex offenders conditional on their engagement with such treatment programmes. Such a system is in place in Vermont in the US which is one of the benchmark States for the management of sex offenders and sex offenders are not eligible for parole unless they avail of treatment while in prison.

“This lack of access to treatment while in prison is compounded by the fact that Gardai are then trying to monitor these offenders post-release with their hands tied behind their backs,” says Denis Naughten.

“The current law governing the conditions for registration, the Sex Offenders Act 2001, is not fit for purpose and needs to be urgently reformed to ensure more effective management of sex offenders.

“At present, once a sex offender registers their official address with any Garda station they can roam around the country for six days as long as they turn up at that official address on the seventh day.

“The failure to close off dangerous loopholes in the monitoring of high risk sex offenders leaves our system open for abuse and means that anyone who wants to avoid Garda attention can easily do so and still comply with the conditions of the so-called sex offenders register.

“While we await a comprehensive reform of the law in this area, which is still a further 18 months away, I’m urging the Government to act on a law which I have produced which received the approval of the Dáil in October 2013. This would not only close off a number of registration loop holes but would also create a system to enable parents to enquire whether persons coming into contact with their child or vulnerable adult have been convicted of a sexual offence or otherwise pose a serious danger.

“This law, the Child Sex Offenders (Information and Monitoring) Bill 2012, has been stalled in the Justice Committee for the last two years and could protect children and vulnerable adults in communities right across this country,” concluded Denis Naughten.

For more information: contact Denis Naughten 086 1708800

Editor’s Note: Link to proposed legislation: Child Sex Offenders (Information And Monitoring) Bill 2012 [PMB] as initiated and Explanatory Memorandum

Dail Eireann
17th November 2015 Naughten

    (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Independent)
    331. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of sex offenders released from prison in 2014; the number of these prisoners who participated in the Building Better Lives programme; the number due to be released in 2015; the corresponding participation rates; her plans to implement the recommendation of her Department’s 2009 review of the management of sex offenders, which recommends that sex offenders should not be eligible for early release if they fail to participate in such courses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40463/15]

Frances Fitzgerald

    (Minister, Department of Justice and Equality; Dublin Mid West, Fine Gael)
    I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that 136 Sexual offenders were released from custody in 2014, and 29 participated in the Building Better Lives Programme on a Group or Individual Basis. A further 136 Sexual offenders are due for release from custody in 2015, and 22 have participated in the Building Better Lives Programme. Offenders not recorded in the Building Better Lives Programme may be involved with other agencies such as the Probation Service, Addiction Services, or the Psychiatric Services. 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.
    The Irish Prison Service works closely with the Probation Service at all times to ensure that assessment, intervention, and risk management are provided to the largest possible number of sex offenders. The Irish Prison Service views engagement with treatment and risk management initiatives as a pre-requisite for offenders to be considered for enhanced regimes, and release planning. In line with International research and best practice, the Building Better Lives Programme targets high intensity levels of intervention reserved for moderate to high risk offenders, focusing on factors relevant to the risk of re-offending.
    The Building Better Lives programme is located in Arbour Hill Prison. The Irish Prison Service is currently in the process of expanding this programme to the Midlands Campus which accommodates a significant number of sexual offenders. This will allow for enhanced screening processes with this population, and the establishment of the components of the Building Better Lives Programme. These developments are aimed at developing the earliest possible engagement with an increased number of sexual offenders as part of their sentence management.