Circles Of Support & Accountability (COSA, or Circles)
is a unique and innovative community justice initiative for postrelease monitoring of medium- and high-risk sex offenders in and by the community.
Founded on the principles of restorative justice in Canada
in 1994, the method entails that a sex offender (the core member) after release is regularly visited by three to six volunteers (the inner circle), preferably from the local community. The inner circle assists the core member resettling in the community by stimulating pro-social behaviour and by providing support and practical help. However, the inner circles volunteers are also trained to recognize behaviour indicating increased risk with the
In that case they will alert members of the so called outer circle that consists of professionals, such as probation officer, therapist or police officer, who can take whatever steps necessary to prevent further offending.
Evaluations showed that the recidivism rate of Circles participants was considerably less than expected for the level of risk they presented.
In 2002, COSA was first introduced in Europe, in the United Kingdom, where similar good results were obtained. COSA was transferred to the Netherlands in 2008. In a project funded by the European Commission (called Circles), the elements for a successful transfer of COSA from one national context to another Europe: Together for Safety were identified.
This formed the basis for a new project Circles4EU,
in which COSA is further implemented in Europe with pilots in Bulgaria, Latvia and Catalonia, while implementation in France, Hungary and
Northern-Ireland is being prepared within the framework of the project.