A ’Circle of Support and Accountability’ is a group of volunteers from a local community that forms a Circle around an offender. In Circles, the sex offender is referred to as the ‘Core Member’. Each Circle consists of four to six Volunteers and a Core Member.
It aims to provide a supportive social network that also requires the Core Member to take responsibility (be ‘accountable’) for his/her ongoing risk management. The Circle can also provide support and practical guidance in such things as developing their social skills, finding suitable accommodation or helping the Core Member to find appropriate hobbies and interests.
Volunteers are fully informed of the Core Member’s past pattern of offending, and whilst helping them to settle into the community the Volunteers also assist them to recognise patterns of thinking and behaviour that could lead to their re-offending. Through this, the Core Member can grow in self-esteem and develop healthy adult relationships, maximising his or her chances of successfully reintegrating into the community in a safe and fulfilling way.
The Core Member is involved from the beginning, is included in all decision making and, like all other members of the Circle, signs a contract committing him or herself to the Circle and its aims. Each Circle is unique because it is individually designed around the needs of the Core Member.
How often does a Circle meet?
The Circle meets regularly and, in the early stages, frequently (usually weekly). The volunteers might also have contact with the Core Member between meetings, normally by phone but occasionally face to face.
Its ‘life’ is initially for twelve months but may extend beyond this for as long as there is a perceived need to support them and manage the risk they represent. Active involvement in the Circle should diminish over time as the Core Member develops other appropriate and safe support networks.
Who is eligible for a Circle?
Each Circles Project has their own eligibility criteria but generally, the service is for men or women who have acknowledged that they have committed sexually harmful behaviour and are assessed as at risk of engaging in further offending behaviour.
They must have some understanding of their offending behaviour and be committed to developing a positive, non-offending lifestyle.