Circles of volunteers and professionals reduce recidivism among sex offenders

Press release, 20 October 2015 - Sex offenders who have served their sentence but live in social isolation show a higher risk of reoffending. Forming Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) reduces this risk and contributes to successful reintegration.

In CoSA, an initiative developed in Canada, a group of volunteers support convicted sex offenders as they reintegrate into their local communities. The volunteers are supervised by professionals of the Dutch Probation Service. Mechtild Höing, who has conducted PhD research into the effects of CoSA, will defend her thesis at Tilburg University on October 26.

An exploratory and qualitative study as well as longitudinal research into reoffending has shown that CoSA is a worthwhile addition to sex offender treatment which mainly helps offenders improve such general skills necessary for successful reintegration as problem solving, social skills, and self-management. A well-functioning circle is crucial in this process.

Effects on volunteers

Höing also studied the effects anticipated and experienced by the volunteers. Her conclusion is that CoSA volunteers can be safely deployed after proper screening and training. They find their work very rewarding and experience strong support from among their fellow volunteers.

Support base

Public support for the resocialization of sex offenders is low, especially among the low-skilled. However, the opinions on CoSA are more positive. One in eight interviewees indicated they considered becoming volunteers themselves.

Mechtild Höing (Waldvelen, Germany, 1958) studied Sociology at Tilburg University. Since 2009, she has worked as a teacher and researcher at the Academie voor Sociale Studies in Breda and the Security Expertise Center of Avans University of Applied Sciences. She conducted research into the development and implementation of CoSA projects in the Netherlands. Between 2011 and 2014, she participated in two European CoSA projects.

Note to editors

Mechtild Höing will defend her PhD thesis on Monday, October 26, 2015, at 16:00 hrs in the Tilburg University Auditorium. Title of the PhD thesis: Empowering Circles. Circles of Support and Accountability. Supervisor: Professor S. Bogaerts. Co-supervisor: dr. B.O. Vogelvang. If you wish to receive a copy for review, please contact persvoorlichters@tilburguniversity.edu. Mechtild Höing can be reached at T: 06-22541733 / E: ma.hoing@avans.nl.