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Most sex offenders don't get treatment

JUST one in six sex offenders serving sentences in Irish prisons are in treatment, the latest figures show.

Of the 332 inmates currently jailed for sex offences, only 55 are participating in rehabilitation programmes.

This means the majority of those serving sentences are doing so without treatment aimed at preventing them reoffending.

At the same time, pressure is mounting for the public to be told when released sex offenders are housed in their communities. The 55 inmates in treatment are taking part in a new programme for the management of sex offenders in custody introduced by the Prison Service last year.

In all, 60 places are available. Although only a fraction of the total number of convicts, this is up from fewer than 10 places on the previous programme, which was discontinued in 2008.

The Rape Crisis Centre said while the treatment figures were a fraction of the numbers in prison, they "had to be welcomed" because they represented a huge increase on what had gone before.

CEO Ellen O'Malley Dunlop said the scheme should be evaluated with a view to extending it.

"Of course we would always want more places, but a huge amount has been done," she said. "This is a huge improvement."

"We know that only one in 10 report the crime, so we would also like to see policies in place aimed at sex offenders who have not been through the system at all.

"We need more funding for treatment programmes -- the Granada Institute and One in Four both have programmes, but they are extremely under-funded."

Under the new measures, a national centre for sex offender treatment was set up at Arbour Hill prison, with two satellite centres at Midlands and Wheatfield prisons.

Prisoners are transferred in and out of the national unit depending on sentence and security issues.

The new policy is aimed at bringing about changes in offenders' lives that reduce the risk of reoffending and enhance public protection.