A women’s charity raised concerns yesterday after it was announced a dangerous sexual predator is to be housed at the Co-Educational facility.
Part of the St George’s jail for women and younger offenders has been redesignated as a hospital to block the release of Merrick Seaman, who was locked up in Westgate prison for a serious sex assault on a five-year-old girl.
Campaigners welcomed the prevention of Seaman’s return to the outside world but said they were worried about his detention in a jail that holds women prisoners and men aged 20 and younger.
They highlighted concerns over the effectiveness of rehabilitation programmes for sex offenders.
Elaine Butterfield, executive director of the Women’s Resource Centre, said: “We are encouraged to see the steps taken by the Minister of National Security and the Minister of Health in the interests of public safety and that the ‘real risk’ in releasing this sex offender is being taken seriously.
“However, considering that the sex offender will be housed alongside women and younger inmates is also of concern. It would appear that this is the best possible solution in an inadequate situation.
“Treatments and programmes for sex offenders is a very specialised area and any programme or treatment regime for these offenders must be long term and focused on relapse prevention.”
She added the WRC wanted “serious consideration” of a proper sex offender’s programme, including specialised treatment while convicted criminals were still behind bars, collaboration with centres overseas before they are released and continued public notification of the release of potential risks to society.
Ms Butterfield said that, along with partner organisations, “we remain open to assisting the Government with a viable solution for the betterment of all”.
The decision to transfer Seaman to the Co-Ed at the end of his sentence was made under the Mental Health Act because island hospitals are not secure enough to hold him.
Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, revealed last week that he had acted to provide the “proper detention and specialised monitoring required” as well as necessary protection for the public, pending transfer of Seaman to an appropriate institution in Britain.
Mr Caines, who worked with Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said they wanted to prevent the release of Seaman, who was not identified by the minister, to “protect the public from this dangerous individual”.
Seaman, now 33, was sentenced to eight years in jail in 2011 for a serious sexual assault committed the previous year as the young girl played outside and while he was an outpatient at the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute.
Then Chief Justice Richard Ground ruled the offender should be imprisoned at Westgate Correctional Facility rather than be subject to a Mental Health Act order.
Yesterday, anti-child abuse charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets said more should be done to help rehabilitate sexual offenders who target children.
Debi Ray-Rivers, the charity’s founder and executive director, said: “Scars wholly supports Minister Caines’s efforts to deal with the very important issue of there not being any treatment programmes in the prisons specifically to treat child sex offenders.
“Without such programmes, the prisons have been a revolving door for many child sex offenders. In fact, the prisons may have even increased the likelihood of reoffending.
“It is understood that due to not having the appropriate treatment available, some child sex offenders have been given the Sex Offenders Treatment Programme, which we understand is a general treatment programme for sex offenders who offend against adults.”
Ms Ray-Rivers added: “In England, the prison-run SOTPs have now been banned as they were shown to actually increase the likelihood of reoffending.
“In any event, any prison-run programme regarding sex offences against adults would not be of assistance in treating child sex offenders. They obviously require a programme specifically focused on treating those with a sexual attraction to children.
“Scars would like to see Bermuda come up to speed with treatment so that our child sex offenders are offered the most up-to-date treatment that is available and effective.
“If child sex offenders are being released without the effective and most up-to-date treatment then that is not reducing the risk of children being sexually abused in our community.”
The Ministry of Justice for England and Wales keeps treatment programmes under “constant review to reduce reoffending and protect the public”.
A spokeswoman for the UK ministry explained: “The new programmes for sex offenders which we have introduced over the past two years, Horizon and Kaizen, draw on the latest international evidence on effective treatment for this cohort of offenders.”
The new programmes replaced the Core and Extended programmes, after a study on the Core SOTP found prisoners completing the programme were slightly more likely to reoffend than those in a control group.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said yesterday: “We can confirm that consideration is being given to the possibility of a transfer for a person from Bermuda to the UK. It would not be appropriate to go into further detail at this time.”
The Ministry of National Security did not respond to a request for comment.
By Fiona McWhirter The Royal Gazette