Community justice initiative
Circles Of Support & Accountability (COSA, or Circles)
is a unique community justice initiative for support and monitoring of medium- and high-risk sex offenders in and by the community.
In COSA, a sex offender (the core member) after release is supported by three to six volunteers (the inner circle) from the local community. The inner circle assists the core member in his proces of resettling in the community by providing moral support and practical help, and by encouraging pro-social behavior. Volunteers are also trained to recognize behaviour that raises concerns.
If necessary, their circle coordinator wil 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 show that the recidivism rate of Circles participants is considerably less than expected for the level of risk they presented.
European COSA projects
In 2002, COSA was first introduced in Europe, in the United Kingdom. Since then, COSA has been further implemented in the Netherlands, Belgium, Catalonia, Latvia, Bulgaria, Ireland and Italy.
European Circles Association
In 2018, the European Circles Association was founded. The objective of the association is the support, development and promotion of Circles of Support and Accountability Services across Europe according to the commonly agreed Circles model and with the intention of assisting similar developments elsewhere.