Sex Offender Treatment Program

21 Jun 2006 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Correctional Services a question about sex offender programs.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: In 2003, the government made the announcement, in relation to a new program for sex offenders, of $800 000 over four years. My office has been contacted by a constituent whose husband is serving time in Mount Gambier as a sex offender and wishes to take part in the program but has been declined. His wife has said that other people in that gaol who do not wish to do the program have been transferred to Yatala (where it is being run) to participate in the program. My questions to the minister are:

1. How many people have participated in the program?

2. What are the criteria for admittance into the program?

3. How long does it take?

4. Given that the former minister stated that some 14 specialists in the area would need to be employed, how many have been employed in that program?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services): I thank the honourable member for her question, and I am sure that she welcomes the fact that this government has introduced a sex offender treatment program.

I remember asking the then attorney-general Trevor Griffin in this place when the then government would introduce such a program and, of course, it never did. Obviously this has happened in the state in the past 12 months. There are two programs. The health department also runs a program. My understanding is that that can happen at Mount Gambier prison. The honourable member has asked me about this person. It is very difficult for me to make a comment. I do not know his circumstances. If the honourable member wishes to approach me afterwards or write to me, I can obviously go to the department and find out why—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink: What is the criteria?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: Obviously the criteria is in relation to the offence for which they are sentenced. I do not know this person. I do not know what they have done. If the honourable member knows, tell me. I will get advice from the department and we will find out why he cannot undertake the program. It is certainly our intention that anyone who is sentenced for a sexual offence undertakes a program. I cannot answer the honourable member’s specific question because I do not know what the facts are and, until she gives them to me, I am not able to comment. The honourable member is welcome to approach me and give me his details, and I will find out why.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question. First, is it the minister’s understanding that all sex offenders are to participate in this program; and, secondly, can she answer the question regarding how many specialists are employed through the program and how many people have completed it? You must have a general briefing there somewhere.

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: It is not a question of having a general briefing.We have introduced this program.

We are doing it and we are doing it very well. I have to say to the honourable member that, when I visited Yatala prison, it was being run on that occasion and those who were visiting with me were very impressed with the manner in which it was being run. It was being observed. Indeed, it is deemed to be one of the best in the world. It is based on the Canadian model. Again, if the honourable member wishes to give me the offender’s name, I will try—

The Hon. J.M.A. Lensink interjecting:


The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I am telling the honourable member what the information is.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I ask the honourable member to tell me the offender’s name and I will bring back the answer.

Tuesday 6 February 2007

In reply to Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (21 June 2006).

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO: I advise that:

1. Six group-based programs have or are being conducted. As at 5 December 2006, 65 people have participated or are participating in the program.

2. The following multiple factors are considered for entry into the program:

(i) Results of actuarial and dynamic risk assessments conducted by departmental professional staff where the participant's risk level is matched to the intensity level of the program being delivered; and

(ii) Other issues considered as part of the selection process including:

date of release (from prison or parole expiration). Priority is given to those offenders who are nearest their released date, which is consistent with practices in other jurisdictions and ensures that all sex offenders assessed as suitable for sex offender treatment will receive the necessary intervention at the most effective time;

management of mental health or other health issues;

alcohol and drug use;

cultural issues and available support. For example,

location of family and RCIADIC recommendations relating to housing of Aboriginal offenders;

‘enemy’ issues that may effect prisoner movement;

prison security rating;

protectee status;

ability of an offender to engage in a group process, for example, literacy levels;

for community programs, the ability to attend programs in the metropolitan region; and

consent to participate and attend the program.

3. The length of the program varies depending upon the intensity level of the program and offender needs. It can range from 3 to 9 months in duration, depending on the assessment of risk and treatment need for each offender, but typically takes at least 6 months. During these periods of participation, offenders are required to attend for 2 to 3 hour group-based treatment four times per week.

Considerable ’homework’ is also required during participation.

4. The sex offender treatment program, provided by the Department for Correctional Services, is provided under the umbrella of the Rehabilitation Programs Branch. Staff of this Branch are responsible for the delivery of treatment programs for sex offenders, violent offenders, and culturally appropriate interventions for Aboriginal offenders.

As at 5 December 2006, the Branch had a staff compliment of 19, 15 of whom are highly skilled clinicians who are directly involved in program delivery, including sex offender treatment. Twenty five percent of staff in the branch are of Aboriginal background, which is possibly the highest such staff ratio in the SA public sector. The remaining staff have professional backgrounds in psychology, social work, and criminology research.