MORE THAN 100 sex offenders in Scottish jails are refusing rehab designed to reduce the risk of reoffending – an official has revealed.
Previous research showed that the rehabilitation programme introduced in prisons cut reoffending rates once sex offenders returned to live in the community.
But a new study which investigated the uptake of such programmes has shown that offenders in Edinburgh and Dumfries jails are refusing to take part.
Prison staff admitted that “there was nothing they could do to motivate sexual offenders who were unwilling to engage in programmes”, the report says.
At present, offenders cannot be forced to take part in any rehab or counselling and will still be released automatically at the two-thirds stage of their sentence.
Refusal can however count against prisoners when they appeal to the parole board.
The study revealed that 70 of the 80 sex offenders at HMP Dumfries refused to participate in the programme.
A lower 31 out of 170 in HMP Edinburgh also declined.
MSP’s have called for tougher rules to force inmates to join such programmes or face spending longer in jail.
John Lamont, the Scottish Conservative chief whip said: “When other criminals, such as those on certain drugs offences, are handed treatment as part of their sentence they must comply with it.”
He continued: “There’s no reason why this should be any different for sex offenders. If they refuse treatment, they should face the consequences of a longer spell inside until they agree.”
Graeme Pearson, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, also supports the call for longer sentences.
Pearson said: “As a threat to public safety, re-offending sex offenders present a very clear danger.
“As a result, the decision an offender makes about whether to participate in treatment must be a key determination as to whether that person is then eligible for release.”
He added: “Treatment in prison is vital so that an offender recognises that they have committed a crime and that their behaviour can be addressed.”
Believed the sexual activity was consensual
The study, Sex Offender – Lack Of Engagment, looked at a group of sex offenders who refused treatment and found they were living in denial, launching endless appeals against their sentences and not facing up to their crimes.
Forensic Psychologist, Sarah Miller, who authored the report wrote:
“19 of the 20 prisoners interviewed were not willing to engage in offender behaviour programmes because they denied their sexual convictions.”
She added that in some cases treatment was refused because the offenders were in denial that the offence happened at all.
Other refused because they believed the sexual activity was consensual.
The combination of denial and status as a candidate for appeal protected the participants’ private and public identities by allowing them to avoid labelling and stigmatisation, she added.
“Instead, denial and appellant status ensured psychological safety by allowing participants to detach from others.”
The revelations that have emerged from the report has sparked outrage from Rape Crisis Scotland.
Sandy Brindley, co-ordinator for the charity, questioned whether the justice system was fulfilling its obligations by allowing offenders to serve their sentences without taking part in treatment programmes.
He said: “In considering whether it is safe or acceptable to release sex offenders, public safety must be the paramount consideration.
“When sex offenders have refused to engage with the opportunities for rehabilitation offerened when they are in custody or, in very many cases, to accept responsibility for their crimes, the impact is often devastating.”
A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: “While SPS can and does constantly and consistently challenge denial, it needs to be recognised that some prisoners non engagement is catergorical.”
He added: “Dr Miller’s report has helpfully highlighted that some sexual offenders who deny the sexual content of their offending may be amenable to other interventions which can help to address associated behavioural problems and mental issues.”