Concern about untreated sex offenders
More than 130 sex offenders, including 64 child sex offenders, have been released from prison in the past two decades, Department of Corrections statistics have revealed.
However, a children’s rights campaigner claimed yesterday that almost 80 per cent of them, including 48 of the child sex offenders, were unlikely to have taken part in any treatment in jail.
Sheelagh Cooper, founder and former president of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, said the majority of prisoners would have been freed without any supervision after serving two thirds of their prison terms.
Ms Cooper added: “It’s a bit scary, really. What I was able to calculate based on the figures is that we have in our community a minimum of 131 released sex offenders and that 102 of them were released at two thirds of their sentence, which most likely means that they never attended any sort of treatment programme whatsoever.
“If you get out after serving a third of your time, on parole, you are supervised and will have taken part in a treatment programme.
“But a lot of inmates don’t want supervision. They don’t apply for parole and they don’t take part in the treatment programmes.”
A change to the law in February means sex offenders are now required to complete court-ordered rehabilitative or therapeutic programmes before either being allowed to apply for parole after serving a third of their term or being released from prison on their early release date after serving two thirds of their sentences.
The Criminal Code (Sex Offender Management) Amendment Act 2018 also requires sex offenders to have a risk assessment two months before leaving prison and for a probation officer to supervise those that require it after release.
Ms Cooper welcomed the changes but questioned whether the appropriate treatment programmes were available for sex offenders in prison.
She said: “There is a very quick turnover of prison psychologists and it’s very hard to recruit them. It is not just any psychologist that can do this. It’s a highly specialised area.
“I would ask now what resources have been added or put in place to effect these changes? Is there a sex offender programme operating right now and what are the qualifications of the provider?”
She said the number of untreated sex offenders in the community was a major concern.
Ms Cooper and Debi Ray-Rivers, founder and executive director of Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, a child sex abuse prevention charity, praised Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, for the legal amendments to ensure sex offenders complete mandatory programmes before release.
Ms Ray-Rivers said: “Taking away freedom from convicted sex offenders, like being behind bars for a few years, does not take away the thoughts they have of being sexually aroused by a child.
“Speak directly to someone who is trained and understands the mind of a child sex offender. They cannot change on their own. They need treatment, with the exception of a few cases, for example a 19-year-old having sex with a 15-year-old.
“But the majority of prolific child sex offenders, particularly paedophiles who commit crimes against younger children, are very disturbed individuals who need specialist treatment targeting their cognitive distortions, deviant urges, denial and a whole bunch of other emotional issues.”
Ms Ray-Rivers added: “In our view, any untreated child sex offender who goes to prison and leaves without treatment is considered high risk. The true litmus test for all of us is to ask ... if a convicted sex offender was found guilty in a court of law, served his full time without parole, had no treatment and no professional assessment, would you allow he or she to babysit your child or grandchild?
“Would you honestly feel safe with this person left alone with your loved one? I think this expresses our concerns about the 48 child sex offenders who were not mandated to participate in an effective appropriate treatment programme or required to be managed and supported in the community.”
She said Scars would like to see the Healthy Sex Programme used in Britain introduced for paedophiles at Westgate.
Ms Cooper made a public access to information request to the Department of Corrections on behalf of several child protection charities early last year to get the statistics on sex offenders.
She did not get a decision and appealed to the information commissioner, who ordered the department to provide her with one by April 11 this year.
A partial response was released last month that gave figures for sex offenders released from jail from January 2000 to December 2018.
The disclosure showed:
• 151 people were jailed for sex offences, 11 of whom went on to offend again and were jailed a second time
• 69 of those jailed were convicted of a sexual offence against a child
• Two child sex offenders committed further offences and were jailed a second time
• 25 inmates jailed for a sexual offence against a child were guilty of unlawful carnal knowledge
• Other child sex offences included sexual exploitation, touching a young person for sexual purposes and sexual assault
• Two people were convicted of a sexual offence against a child, but were put on probation rather than jailed
• 16 inmates convicted of a sexual assault against a child were released on parole after serving a third of their prison term
• 48 inmates convicted of a sexual assault against a child were released “sentence completed”, which is understood to mean after serving two-thirds of their term
• Three convicted child sex offenders remain in prison and 1 died in custody
• 13 inmates convicted of a sexual assault against an adult were released early on parole after serving a third of their term
• 54 inmates convicted of a sexual assault against an adult were released “sentence complete”
• 11 inmates convicted of a sexual assault against an adult remain in prison and two were transferred to the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute
Keeva Joell-Benjamin, the Acting Commissioner of Corrections, said she needed more time to research how many released offenders had taken part in a sex offender treatment programme.
Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, who delivered the Legal Affairs budget brief on behalf of the Attorney-General, told Parliament in March: “Having passed sex offender legislation to protect society, and especially our children, work continues apace to co-ordinate stakeholders and to implement the sex offender registration and notification system.”
She added: “We now have a comprehensive registration, rehabilitation, monitoring and reporting system under the auspices of an Offender Risk Management Team with this primary mandate.
“The aim is to ensure that all necessary steps are taken for offenders to be reformed, once incarcerated, and appropriately monitored and supervised upon release.
“Appropriate notices will also be provided to victims and the public to prevent reoffending, with particular regard to the safety of our children.”
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