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Sex offenders 'are the hardest ex-cons to put back on street'

SEX offenders who are identified by the public when they come out of prison cause a "big headache" for probation officer Nick Clarke.

Tracing what happens next is part of a new two-part documentary, Inside Probation, part one of which is broadcast tonight at 9.35 on RTE 1.

Nick (inset) works with sex offenders who are released from prison.

"They are usually single males and when they come out of prison they can be homeless. They can't go back to their families," he explained.

He has to find them hostel accommodation but if they are identified by anyone in the hostel "you have to move them and it can take a whole day to find somewhere else".

He stressed that even if people "have done horrible things, you still have to work with them on a human level, trying to help them not to re-offend".


"You have to get the balance between rehabilitation and support but also public protection," he said.

In his 15 years working as a probation officer "I have never had anyone re-offend while on probation".

Alan Hughes, a probation officer who is based in north Dublin says the "toughest part of the job is trying to engage with the young people.

"You work on the premise that change is always possible."

In his view community sanction is preferable to a prison sentence.

"Detention should be a last resort," he added, describing it as "often the easy option because the person does not have to engage and face up to responsibility".

The programme focuses on Nick's difficulty finding accommodation for a sex offender and Alan working with a 16-year-old who has "picked up a lot of charges for theft and anti-social behaviour".

Judy Kelly, who directed the documentary, hopes it will help people will understand more about how the probation services work and realise that offenders on probation are "closely monitored with a balance between care and control".