Circles of Support and Mentoring
HMP Whatton Circles of Support and Accountability
Since August 2014, the SLF have been running the first ever UK prison-based Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) project from HMP Whatton for high risk adults with a sexual conviction. Our main focus has been to provide this service for elderly (55+) and intellectually disabled male prisoners.
Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) are a successful community initiative proven to reduce sexual offending. A Circle is a group of 3-4 volunteers from a local community who meet regularly with a person with a sexual conviction after release (known as the Core Member) to offer social, practical and emotional support, in addition to monitoring and supervision. The volunteers create the Circle of Support around the Core Member and offer, with supervision, social and practical support to the individual.
The Circle begins around 3 months before the individual is released and then continues through the transition period from prison to community, and for the next 12-18 months in the community. For more details about the origins of Circles and Circles UK click here.
HMP Whatton Circles referral criteria
Referrals are accepted from any agency, organisation or individual provided the Core Member meets all of the following criteria:
- Being released to live in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire or Lincolnshire and be resident within those counties for the life of the Circle
- Be experiencing social isolation as a result of their offence and have little or no support other than professional agencies
- Be willing to engage in a Circle of Support and Accountability
- Be assessed as high or very high risk of sexual reoffending on the RM2000 assessment
- Be assessed as low risk to volunteers
Lincolnshire Community Circles and Mentoring
In November 2015 a separate Lincolnshire project was also awarded a grant from the Big Lottery to run community based Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) within Lincolnshire. This project has been successful in running CoSAs in Lincolnshire and in October 2019 responsibility for the delivery of the Lincolnshire project was taken over by the Safer Living Foundation.
Lincolnshire interventions include:
- Circles of Support and Accountability
- Paired Mentoring for those who have committed a sexual offence and who fit the criteria for a CoSA but do not need such long-term support
- Short term one-to-one interventions can also be offered
Lincolnshire core member referral criteria
- Adult who has been convicted of a sexual offence
- Socially isolated and emotionally lonely
- Does not maintain innocence of offence(s)
- Commitment to live an offence free life
Do Circles work?
Circles provide a unique and supportive social network to counteract the isolation that can be such a dangerous factor in leading to further sexual offences. They encourage and enable offenders to develop appropriate social activities and share in the life of the community, allowing for successful and crime-free reintegration back into society.
Sexual and/or violent reoffending rates are reported to be 15% (Barnett et al., 2010). Through taking part in a Circle, this can be significantly reduced, with Circles proven to reduce sexual reoffending by 83% and both sexual and violent reoffending by approximately 70% (Wilson et al., 2009).
“It’s not an easy ride for the released people who have committed a sexual offence, but at least Circles gives them some hope, and volunteers doing this in their spare time is remarkable. I salute them.”
Lord Ian Blair
We are currently recruiting volunteers for both our adult and young people’s projects. If you are interested in joining us, click here for more information.
Support for Circles of Support and Mentoring
We are grateful to have received support for these projects from: