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Low figures Only 1 in 8 sex offenders released from Irish prisons have completed treatment programme

According to the Irish Prison Service Psychology Unit, those who take part in the programme are more than 3.5 times less likely to reoffend compared to those who do not.

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Only one in eight sex offenders being released from Irish prisons have taken part in the state’s main treatment programme, according to new figures released to RTÉ.

Between 2017 and the beginning of last year, there were 443 sexual offenders released from prison, of which only 55 took part in the “Building Better Lives Programme”.

The programme is voluntary therapy designed to help offenders understand the aspects of their behaviour and thinking patterns that lead to their crimes, which in turn will hopefully help them from doing them again.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable decrease in the amount of people taking part in the programme. Currently it’s at 12.4pc per year, but when compared to 2014, it was up at 21pc.

As of yet there are no figures for 2020, with the Irish Prison Service telling Morning Ireland that this was due to resource demands of the pandemic. However, it did say that: “treatments had been curtailed due to the virus.”

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Portlaoise Prison stock

Portlaoise Prison stock

Portlaoise Prison stock

According to the Irish Prison Service Psychology Unit, those who take part in the programme are more than 3.5 times less likely to reoffend compared to those who do not.

However, not everyone is eligible. The programme is only for prisoners who have fully admitted their offence and the harm they have done to their victims, have stable mental health, and a sentence of more than 18 months.

Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust Fíona Ní Chinnéide told Morning Ireland some of the reasons people may not participate in the programme.

“It can be a lack of motivation, or if the person is in a place of denial, or that the sentence is being appealed, or that there’s insufficient time on the sentence,” she said.

“On the other hand it can also be a lack of access for example to the prison, where the Building Better Lives programme is being run. Or it can be a lack of psychology.”

“Another reason could be that there’s no incentive. So people who are serving prison sentences for sexual offences can not access early release programmes, such as community return programmes, and they have no access to open prisons, which we would challenge.”

Back in October of last year, rape survivor Debbie Cole told Newstalk that she would like the government to force serial sex offenders to wear GPS trackers on their ankles to prevent them from reoffending.

“My time is until I take my last breath: my attack was 31 years ago; I'm still living with the sentence so surely an extra couple of years of that person having an ankle monitor is not too big a deal if they've no intentions on hurting anybody again,” she said.

“It's not like it's on their face, it's not like it's around their neck like a dog collar so everyone in the street can see it - it's on their ankle under a pair of trousers.”

CSO statistics from 2014 show that sex offenders are actually the least likely group of former prisoners to be convicted of an offence for a second time after their release.

Only 19pc of such sex offenders committed a crime within three years of their release, and the prison service says the majority of those additional convictions were not sexual crimes.

Charities like One In Four work with those who have been convicted of a sexual crime, and their executive director Maeve Lewis told Morning Ireland about what it can be like for some offenders once they’re released.

“It’s an incredibly difficult transition,” she said. “Very often they’re not welcome back in their home.”

“Even if they’re welcomed in their home, they’re not welcomed in their community, and that is a very dangerous time for offenders because if they’re driven underground, that’s the time they’re most likely to reoffend.”

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