A THERAPEUTIC programme for convicted sex offenders has cost up to €720,000 to run since it was introduced in 2009, according to the Irish Prison Service.
But only 164 prisoners have availed of the voluntary programme during that time, representing just a fraction of criminals who have received jail sentences for sex offences.
The Building Better Lives (BBL) programme is devised by psychologists in the Irish Prison Service and is provided at Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin, where the majority of prisoners are male sex offenders. The programme involves group therapy and aims to rehabilitate participants and reduce the risk of them reoffending in the future.
Last year, 179 sex offenders were released from Irish prisons, but only 22 of these had engaged with the BBL programme.
In 2014, 142 sex offenders are due to be released from Arbour Hill, but only 24 of these chose to participate in the programme. At present, 35 sex offenders are enrolled in the programme.
It is divided into two modules lasting a total of 12 months, and an ongoing third module that functions as a continual support group for participants.
The Department of Justice has calculated that the costs associated with the BBL programme have amounted to between €673,340 and €721,440 since its introduction five years ago.
"The only specific cost associated with the programme is the psychology service resources invested in the programme," said a spokesperson for the Department of Justice.
"There are 18 psychologists working in the Irish Prison Service. Three of these are involved in the delivery of all aspects of the BBL, from assessment to group work and individual work.
"On average, these psychologists spend approximately 70-75pc of their time working in the BBL."
The Department has estimated that the provision of the BBL programme for sex offenders costs the Irish Prison Service between €134,668 and €144,288 a year.
This is addition to the cost of imprisonment in the case of each offender.
According to the Prison Service BBL uses "a strengths-based psychology approach".
The first module is called 'Exploring Better Lives' and aims to develop motivation and confidence about positive change.
Then prisoners move on to 'Practising Better Lives' where they focus on building "a more detailed understanding of past offending and developing positive offence-free self management plans for the future".
The final part is 'Maintaining Better Lives', which is about supporting "ongoing progress and development" for men who are serving longer sentences.