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[17] 7 april 2020: Circles of Support and Accountability for Sex Offenders: A Systematic Review of Outcomes

Beste collega´s van binnen en van buiten het ministerie van Justitie & Veiligheid,

Vandaag een onderzoeksynthese naar de effectiviteit van het programma Circles of Support. Dit is een aanpak die resocialiserende zedendelinquenten een kunstmatig sociaal netwerk biedt in de vorm van een groep zorgvuldig geselecteerde en getrainde vrijwilligers die ondersteuning bieden, maar ook alert zijn op signalen van risico. Daarbij wordt samengewerkt met professionele organisaties in de keten van nazorg. In Nederland is dit programma ook bekend onder de naam Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA). COSA is een aanvulling op de bestaande zorg, die meestal bestaat uit behandeling en het toezicht. De geïnteresseerde lezer wordt verwezen naar onderstaand artikel over COSA dat in 2019 in Justitiële Verkenningen verscheen:  https://www.wodc.nl/binaries/JV1903_volledige-tekst_tcm28-399141.pdf#page=62 Onlangs verscheen een internationale onderzoeksynthese die een oordeel velt over de mate van effectiviteit van de interventie die in verschillende landen is uitgevoerd.

Bron

Martin Clarke, Susan Brown, & Birgit Völlm (2017). Circles of Support and Accountability for Sex Offenders: A Systematic Review of Outcomes. Sexual Abuse, vol. 29, no. 5 , pp. 446-478.

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1079063215603691

What is the focus of the intervention?

Circles of support and accountability (Circles) is a community-based approach to the reintegration of sex offenders following release from prison. Offenders are supported by a small group of community volunteers who provide assistance (e.g. mentoring and practical help) as well as a monitoring function. This approach is intended to promote successful reintegration into the community and reduce reoffending among high risk sex offenders. The focus of the Review is on studies that evaluated the effect of Circles programmes on the following offender outcomes: reoffending rates, risk level and reintegration into the community. This narrative is based on one systematic review covering 15 studies, which primarily focuses on the effect of Circles programmes on reoffending (including reconviction for any offence and any sexual offence, arrest, recall, or breach of licence). Other factors which can influence reoffending, such as psychosocial adaptation, housing, relationships and employment, were also considered. Most of the primary research was carried out in the UK (nine studies). There were also three studies conducted in Canada, two studies in the USA and one study in the Netherlands.

How effective is it?

There is some evidence that the Circles programmes have reduced general reoffending, but overall the Circles programmes have not had a statistically significant effect on crime. The evidence suggests that the Circles programmes had no overall impact on reoffending for sex offenders who received the Circles programme compared to the sex offenders who did not. However, it is possible that sex offenders in the control groups, as well as those who participated in Circles programmes, may have also participated in other sexual offender treatment programmes. Within this review, general reoffending is defined as ‘being charged with or convicted of a new offence’, and sexual reoffending as either ‘being charged with a new sexual offence or breaching a court-imposed condition’. The four studies with control groups reported that the sex offenders who received the Circles programme had lower rates of general reoffending than those who did not, although few of these differences were statistically significant. However, the Review was not able to demonstrate a reduction in reoffending for sexual offences which the authors suggest may be in part due to short-follow up periods and a lack of studies with control groups. The effect of the Circles programme on psychosocial outcomes (e.g. psychosocial adaptation, housing, relationships and employment) that might lead to a reduction in reoffending is unknown. The studies that found improvements did not use control groups and as a result it is not possible to ascertain whether these improvements were a result of the Circles programme.

General considerations

The studies included in this Review have several limitations in terms of the study design, small sample sizes, short follow-up periods, limited data sources for reconviction data and limited information about how the Circles programmes were implemented. The methodological limitations of the studies and the variations in implementation limit the ability to generalise the outcomes to a wider population. It is also worth noting that offences committed by participants in Circles programmes are more likely to be detected because the Circles volunteers also provide a monitoring function.

Summary

Overall, the Circles programmes have not had a statistically significant effect on crime, but there is some evidence that they have reduced general reoffending. The review authors suggest that a number of methodological and programme issues including short-follow up periods, a lack of studies with control groups and the small scale of Circles programmes impact the ability to be more certain about the effectiveness of Circles programmes. Circles programmes are assumed to reduce crime by having a small support group of volunteers who provide practical help to enhance offender’s capabilities to achieve and maintain prosocial behaviour. Openness and honesty in the relationship between the volunteers and the offender is said to be essential to the success of the Circles programme. The volunteers also provide a monitoring function, alerting the relevant organisations to any potential risk posed by the sex offender. Additional evidence is required to test the assumptions about why Circles programmes may be effective, and identify the contexts in which Circles programmes work best.

Afsluitend

Het programma kan het predicaat van veelbelovend krijgen. Er is nog te weinig inzicht op basis van effectevaluaties om het als effectief te bestempelen. Verder evaluatieonderzoek in de toekomst zal dat moeten uitwijzen. Zo is er bijvoorbeeld na tien jaar COSA in Nederland dringend behoefte aan een methodologisch goed uitgevoerd onderzoek naar de recidive van kernleden. Alleen dan kunnen er ook in Nederland betrouwbare uitspraken worden gedaan over de eventuele recidivevermindering en kostenbesparing door COSA.

Tot morgenochtend maar weer. Blijf allemaal gezond en geniet van de zon en deze mooie lentedagen. O ja, ik gaf via een interview een korte uitleg over mogelijke gevolgen van het COVID-19 virus op de criminaliteitsmarkt: https://ccv-secondant.nl/platform/article/de-klassieke-criminaliteit-is-bijna-gehalveerd