Thursday, 6 December 2012

With Nothing To Lose

5 December 2012 08.30 GMT

Charity takes holistic approach to supporting sex offenders

"Circles UK's volunteers work alongside police and probation services in running a programme to cut reoffending

Ex-offender James says: 'If you imagine a pile of Lego bricks scattered across a table, when I joined Circles I was only just building the foundations back together.'

When James was released from prison, a year after being convicted for several child sex offences, he felt vulnerable and alone. "There was a lot of just sitting, staring at four walls and twiddling my thumbs," he explains. "It was boring, tedious and frustrating."

The common scenario James found himself in while on licence is also a dangerous one. Statistics show rates of recidivism of between 30% and 50% for serious sexual offenders [quote your sources]. Isolation and a lack of normal social interaction can be a significant trigger for reoffending.

This is where Circles UK has been making an impact. The charity works alongside police and probation services to provide convicted sex offenders with "circles of support and accountability", small groups of public volunteers who ensure the offender, or "core member", makes a smooth transition back into society. So far the success rate is impressive, of the 160 offenders it has supported since pilot projects began in 2002, only eight have been reconvicted.

"Without support we end up with an isolated, potentially dangerous offender with nothing to lose," says Annabel Francis, co-ordinator for Circles East of England."

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