Dáil Éireann - Volume 483 - 02 December, 1997
Written Answers. - Prison Services.
Mr. Wall Mr. Wall
58. Mr. Wall asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action, if any, he will take to improve the treatment services available  to sex offenders currently held in prison. [21257/97]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue) John O'Donoghue
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): There are two forms of therapeutic intervention available to sex offenders within the prison system at present. Both are aimed at enabling such offenders gain some measures of control over their offending behaviour. The first is individual counselling from my Department's clinical psychology service and from the probation and welfare service. This form of therapeutic intervention is available in all prisons, with the exception of the Curragh where it will be available shortly. The second is an intensive offence focused group work programme which is available only in Arbour Hill Prison at the moment.
The dedicated treatment programme in Arbour Hill Prison can cater for up to ten offenders at one time and takes ten to eleven months to complete. The emphasis is on accepting personal responsibility for the offence and developing effective relapse prevention strategies for each offender. All convicted sex offenders who are in custody are invited to apply to participate in the programme. Those who apply are considered by the treatment team but not all are deemed suitable. Where more than ten offenders who have applied are deemed suitable, the places on the programme are allocated to those nearest the end of their sentence. The others are offered a place on a subsequent programme. It is important to note that both forms of treatment are voluntary, offenders are encouraged to avail of these services but they are neither compelled to attend, nor do they receive any extra concessions for attending.
I am keen to expand treatment programmes for sex offenders and my Department is actively examining the possibility of increasing the number of group treatment places available by locating a further group treatment programme for ten sex offenders at the Curragh. However, in view of the specialised skills necessary to set up and run such a programme, it will take some time to put a new programme in place.
A new therapeutic programme for offenders will be introduced in Cork Prison as well as in Arbour Hill early in 1998. The thinking skills training programme for offenders is designed to target a range of offenders. Sex offenders will be invited to participate. The programme will be run by multi-disciplinary teams, including prison officers. Such structured interpersonal work with offenders represents a significant development of the role of the prison officer and a new and challenging development within the Irish prison service.
Dáil Éireann 483 Written Answers. Prison Services.