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Feasibility Report into Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) in Ireland

4th January 2012

This report, commissioned by the Probation Service, examines the feasibility of introducing a COSA model for sexual offenders in Ireland. COSA is a restorative justice based programme which was developed as a means to support sex offenders on release from custody. It involves setting up support circles, made up of volunteers from the local community, who provide the offender with ongoing contact and support their following release from prison, aiding the reintegration process.

Research suggests that in Canada, sex offenders who are part of a COSA are 70% less likely to re-offend than those who are not, particularly in respect of sexual offences. 

The report goes on to make several recommendations regarding the introduction of COSA in Ireland. Key recommendations include: 

  1. Ireland should adopt a model similar to the Scottish one. This confers responsibility on one existing host organisation to co-ordinate, establish and run local COSA (this would be the selected by a tendering process).
  2. A 2 year pilot scheme should be set up which targets medium to high-risk sex offenders coming out of prison who will be under probation supervision.
  3. This pilot should operate a maximum of 5 COSA (5 sex offenders) and should include larger and smaller urban centers.
  4. The pilot scheme should use trained volunteers from the local community who will be supervised by a professional coordinator. 
  5. Considering COSA could contribute to the safety of children as well as public safety at large, the funding for the pilot scheme should come from the Departments of Justice and Children.

Read More:

  • Access the full report here.
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