Just 16pc of sex offenders given treatment in jail
ALARM: Victims' groups demand more funds
JUST one in six sex offenders have undergone psychological treatment in prison this year.
The Herald can reveal that only 52 sex offenders have had such treatment as part of their custody to date in 2011.
The figure represents less than a sixth of the 339 prisoners convicted of sex crimes.
The low uptake has raised concern among victim support groups, with calls being made on the Justice Minister today to increase resources into the rehabilitation programmes in our prisons.
Ellen O'Malley Dunlop, of the Rape Crisis Centre, told the Herald that while she felt the programmes themselves were "going in the right direction", there will be little increase in uptake based on current funding.
"International research continually points to the positive effects of rehabilitation. It is particularly important that the programmes like these are continued out in the community," she said.
"Unfortunately, you can't force people to undergo treatment. Like everything of this nature, resources have been cut. Ideally, we'll have a situation in the future where every sex offender would undergo treatment, but right now that's just not realistic," she added.
Maeve Lewis, of support group One In Four, said there was a "huge need" for more resources into community-based treatment programmes.
"Our programme, Phoenix, is the only one of its kind in Dublin, but it is severely limited due to a lack of funding.
"If we are really serious about helping people with problems of this nature then we need to realise that treatment is a fundamental part of that cycle."
The Building Better Lives Programme (BBL) is only available in Arbour Hill Prison. The Irish Prison Service (IPS) maintains that the figure for the first half of the year will double by the end of 2011.
A spokesperson for the IPS told the Herald: "Every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in their personal rehabilitation and relapse prevention.
"Sex offenders continue to benefit from other group programmes not specifically designed for sex offenders, but addressing their needs, including stress management, anger management and cognitive skills training, as well as interventions by visiting psychiatrists."
However The Irish Penal Reform Trust today claimed that "chronic overcrowding" in prisons is a factor in the low number of prisoners receiving treatment.
"The numbers in custody must be reduced to allow meaningful engagement of prisoners with rehabilitative services," a spokesperson said.