Circles of Support and Accountability
Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) is a community-oriented, restorative-justice based reintegration program that assists people in their effort to re-enter society after a period of incarceration for a sexual offence.
A “Circle” involves a group of three to five screened, trained volunteers who commit themselves to support and hold accountable the Core Member who is more often than not labelled high risk to re-offend. Because, in many cases, he has been held to the end of his sentence, he is returning to the community with little or no support available to him and often with much media attention. Core Members participate in the program voluntarily. They are not mandated by the judicial system to participate.
The Circle meets together regularly and is guided by a written and signed agreement called a Covenant. Volunteers also provide assistance with re-entry challenges (housing, employment, medical attention, etc). The Core Member commits to open communication with the group regarding his identified risk factors, problematic behaviour, attitudes, etc., all in an effort to end his pattern of sexual offences and increase public safety.
Volunteer members come from all walks of life, ranging in age from 21 and up. They are professionally supported and work in conjunction with community agencies, treatment providers like psychologists, parole or probation officers, the police, and the courts.
Our mission statement is to substantially reduce the risk of future sexual victimization of community members by assisting and supporting released individuals in integrating with the community and leading responsible, productive, and accountable lives.
Our bottom line is: No More Victims and No One is Disposable
DOES IT WORK?
COSA participants from a national replication sample (Wilson, Cortoni & McWhinnie, 2009), had 83% less sexual reoffending (1 vs. 6), 73% less violent reoffending (4 vs. 15), and 71% less reoffending of any kind (5 vs. 17) than the matched comparison group.
Furthermore, in looking at the actual total number of new charges and convictions incurred by the two groups (as opposed to the number of offenders who recidivated), the COSA group incurred 74% fewer charges and convictions (17 vs. 73) than the comparison group. Wilson, R.J., Cortoni, F. and McWhinnie, A.J. (2009).
Circles of Support & Accountability: A Canadian National Replication of Outcome Findings. SEX ABUSE: A Journal of Research and Treatment 21(4) 412-430.
CoSA is based in and relies upon volunteerism and community connections. There are two circles that support a Core Member; the inner circle of trained volunteers, and the outer circle of professionals who support, train and guide the inner circle.
INNER CIRCLE VOLUNTEERS
- Mediate on behalf of the core member with the community (eg. neighbours, church, media, police, social services, victims’ groups)
- Advocate for the rights of the core member with various systems (eg. police, treatment professionals, courts)
- Confront the core member about behaviour or attitudes that cause concern
- Walk with Core Member through emergencies
- Celebrate anniversaries, milestones and small victories
- Provide friendship and support to the core member
- Assist with living skill development
- Help provide a healthy social environment
- Respect confidentiality within the "circle"
- Respect the no secrets rule
- Support the other volunteers
OUTER CIRCLE VOLUNTEERS
- Support the inner circle in many ways
- Provide training throughout the year in related areas (communication, small group dynamics, addictions, mental health)
- Serve on the advisory committee
- Provide guidance in difficult situations
- Offer support in challenging emotional circumstances
- Give office support
- Be involved in community outreach
If you are interested in getting involved in the inner or outer circle, we want to hear from you. Please contact the CoSA Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 506-851-6384.