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Nottingham Trent University launches scheme to rehabilitate sex offenders

Nottingham Trent University is piloting a scheme, backed by police, for convicted sex offenders with the aim of integrating them back into society and preventing further crimes.

Launched on Monday 11 February, the Corbett Centre for Prisoner Reintegration is described as the world’s first holistic approach to fully integrating sex offenders back into society.

The project is being run by the Safer Living Foundation (SLF), a charity formed by HMP Whatton and the School of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University which offers support to people with sexual convictions.

Open to 100 former prisoners, it is solely for sexual offenders who have been released from prison on licence, aiming to reduce the rate of re-offences which currently stands at between 10% and 14%.

SLF, which was formed in February 2014, outlines its objectives to be to “promote the protection of people from, and the prevention of, sexual crime” and to “promote the rehabilitation of persons who have committed or who are likely to commit sexual offences against others”.

The service offers support by running lessons in life skills such as decorating, gardening and cooking, practical help for employment and education, and emotional support made up of mindfulness and mediation sessions as well as the chance for religious services for people who cannot reintegrate into these services in their own community.

We want to make sure they won’t reoffend because they will have found a niche in society, a way of reintegrating

– Professor Belinda Winder

Police from the Nottinghamshire’s force will be on site at various times during the week to meet with offenders on licence, saving police the time and resources used on tracking their whereabouts. Lynn Saunders, chair and co-founder of SLF and governor of HMP Whatton, said the centre was a “much needed resource”.

Professor Belinda Winder, head of the sexual offences, crime and misconduct research unit at Nottingham Trent University and co-founder of SLF said: “We want to make sure they won’t reoffend because they will have found a niche in society, a way of reintegrating.”

She said that while it seems controversial, “this important initiative will support existing research to understand and prevent sexual abuse”.

Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping said: “This ground-breaking piece of work will hopefully set the new standard for post-sentence reintegration into the community. It’s absolutely logical”.

If you look at it from [the victims] perspective, it says that the offender is more important than the victim, and that must be wrong

– David Hollas

However, according to The Nottingham Post, the move has been criticised by victims of sexual abuse, with one saying that it is a “slap in the face” for convicts to have access to support that many survivors have been denied.

One woman who, at 16, was the victim of a Nottinghamshire sex offender said: “Cuts in funding have had catastrophic effects on many survivors. And yet the very kind of people who caused their pain and trauma are getting a unit funded so they have a better chance at life.”

Advocate for the Nottinghamshire Child Sexual Abuse Survivors Group, David Hollas similarly said: “If you look at it from [the victims] perspective, it says that the offender is more important than the victim, and that must be wrong.”

Though he added: “But I would also support anything that can be done to rehabilitate sex offenders. We can’t just keep them behind bars in order to protect (mainly) women from sexual harm. This is not an either/or debate – we have to do both, equally, with all endeavour.”

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