Thursday, 9 December 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
201. Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the programmes in place for the treatment of sex offenders; the number of sex offenders serving prison sentences; the number of sex offender treatment places available, and in which institutions; if all available sex offender treatment places are currently filled; if there is a waiting list; if so, the number on the waiting list and current waiting time for treatment; the number of sex offenders in the State who have completed the treatment course since its introduction and the present status of these individuals; the post-release programmes offered to such offenders who have completed a course of treatment; the results of any studies of the effectiveness of the treatment programmes available to sex offenders in this State; and his plans for the further development of such programmes. [32978/04]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Some 283 prisoners were serving sentences for sexual offences on 8 December last. Three forms of direct therapeutic intervention for sex offenders are in operation in the prison system: individual counselling from the Prison Service’s psychology unit and the probation and welfare service, the sex offender programme which has been in operation since 1994 and one-to-one interventions by visiting psychiatrists who provide support to prisoners.
Every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in personal rehabilitation and relapse prevention. Some 106 sex offenders have completed the sex offender programme to date and a further eight men are undertaking the programme in Arbour Hill Prison. The total number of places available on the programme is eight. The vast majority of such offenders have been released on the expiration of their sentences. With the exception of five men who are serving life sentences, the rest are due for release over the next three years. No waiting list is in operation for those who are willing to participate in the programme. All sex offenders are invited to apply for a place on the programme when a new group being set up.
The probation and welfare service organises a Dublin based programme, in partnership with the Granada Institute. Offenders coming out of prison may be referred to the programme, regardless of whether they have participated in a sex offender programme. The programme involves community sex offender group treatment for men who have offended against children. There are eight places in each programme and two programmes are run per annum.
International research has found that treatment programmes, such as the cognitive behavioural, offence focused programme operating in the prison system, can contribute to community safety because those who complete such programmes are less likely to re-offend than those who do not participate in them. The most recent meta-analysis of 43 treatment outcome studies, Hanson et. al. 2002, found a significant treatment effect and a reduced recidivism rate of 9.9% for offenders who participated, compared to 17.4% for those who did not.
An independent evaluation of the Prison Service programme was recently completed by UCD’s psychology department — O’Reilly and Carr, 2004. The study found that the sex offender programme complies with the highest international standards of programme delivery and that the programme has achieved significant positive changes in the psychological risk factors in men who have successfully completed it. The study’s findings will contribute to the future development of a multi-disciplinary sex offender rehabilitation programme, which will significantly enhance access to intensive group therapy for sex offenders.
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