Circles of Support and Accountability

“Offenders who desist are more likely to maintain an offence free life if communities acknowledge and reward the change through inclusion” (Maruna and McNeill (2007)

We live in a society where sexual abuse provokes powerful responses within communities. The successful rehabilitation and reintegration of someone who commits sexual offences requires consideration of their needs, those of their victims and the community in which they live. Social isolation and emotional loneliness are key factors in increasing the risk of reoffending.

What does the service offer?

Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) is a model of intervention that assists in the monitoring and community re-integration of certain high risk individuals who commit sexual offences. Each circle endeavours to address identified dynamic risk factors linked with the offender’s Risk Management Plan (as agreed through the Multi Agency public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA)). Circles are not intended as an alternative to the formal risk management arrangements or statutory supervision of offenders. Circles provide an additional component to the risk management arrangements as dictated by the local MAPPA. Circles of Support and Accountability aim to prevent sexual abuse, working towards the objective of “no more victims”

How does the service work?

A “Circle of Support and Accountability” is a trained group of volunteers from the local community which forms a Circle around an offender who  is referred to as “the Core Member”. The Circle  aims to provide a supportive social network that requires the Core Member to be accountable for their actions. Accountability is a central issue in the effective development of Circles. The Core Member must voluntarily agree to be part of a Circle in order to demonstrate some awareness of their own risk within the community. Each Circle is unique, because it is individually designed around the needs of the Core Member. 

Who is the service aimed at?

Circles of Support and Accountability work with people who:

  • Are a high risk of committing further sexual offences

  • Voluntarily agree to participate in a Circle

  • Are isolated in the community in which they live

  • Lack social skills and often have low self-esteem.

How is the service accessed?

CoSA is available all across Scotland and referrals can be made by the local Criminal Justice Social Work Department.

Evaluation of the service

Sacro commissioned an evaluation of the Sacro Circles of Support and Accountability (Fife) service and this was undertaken by The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. The final evaluation report is now complete and you can access the report here.