NOVEMBER 22, 2016

We have learned that the Alberta government intends to quietly proceed with the closure of the Phoenix sex offender treatment program by March 2017. Our two associations view this decision as detrimental to public safety, and one which cannot be justified upon any reasonable economic or scientific basis.

The Phoenix Program is a highly secure 19 bed (serving) facility operated out of Alberta Hospital Edmonton that provides highly intensive sex offender therapy to convicted offenders serving provincial jail sentences. In previous years, the program also treated offenders from the federal jail system. This tragically was discontinued without explanation, even though federal offenders arguably pose the greatest risk to our communities when released without adequate treatment.

The Phoenix Program requires offenders to participate in a strictly scheduled regime of 35 hours of therapy each week that can last up to one year, followed by up to 8 months of daily, 4 hour daily sessions once the offender has been released into the community. This is then followed by continuing long term support from Phoenix staff, often long after the offender’s sentence is fully completed.

The Phoenix Program has been internationally recognized in academic research as one of the most effective sex offender treatment programs in the world. The Program has reported recidivism rates as low as 3.3% when 120 treatment completed offenders were tracked over a 3 year period. An important aspect of the Program’s success has been its therapeutic yet secure hospital setting, as opposed to a prison environment where offenders contend with a hostile and negative environment.

Details about the government’s replacement plan for Phoenix remain limited. We have learned that while Alberta Health Services will maintain overall control over its administration, it will be based within the Calgary Correctional Centre. The new program will provide a mere 6 hours of treatment per week, which pales in comparison to Phoenix’s 35 hour requirement.

Since its inception, our members have referred many seriously ill offenders to the Phoenix Program. We know the results for those who complete the Program have generally been little short of phenomenal.

Why would the provincial government jettison a proven, highly effective “Gold Standard” program such as Phoenix, and replace it with a far less intensive, entirely unproven 2

program? Is this really how they intend to balance the budget, by risking public safety? We call upon the government to reverse this ill-advised decision, and recognize that the Phoenix Program provides superior treatment to offenders, which in turn, better protects us all.


Kelly Dawson

President, Criminal Trial Lawyers Association


Ian Savage

President, Criminal Defence Lawyers Association