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Circles of Support and Accountability: An Effective Approach to Community Safety

The Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CCJC), in collaboration with CoSA sites across Canada, recently completed a five year demonstration project funded through the National Crime Prevention Centre of Public Safety Canada. Mennonite Central Committee Ontario was one of these sites with projects primarily active in Hamilton, Kitchener, and Toronto. The result of this project is a comprehensive evaluation report of CoSA in Canada.

Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) is a community-based reintegration program, grounded in restorative justice principles, that holds sex offenders accountable for the harm they have caused while assisting with their task of re-entry into communities at the end of their sentences.

This evaluation is a valuable addition to the growing body of international research on CoSA programs. This report, along with similar research, indicates that CoSA is a critical tool in the re-integration for high-risk, high needs sexual offenders in Canada and plays an essential role in reducing sexual victimization and keeping communities safe.

This evaluation report is the first of its kind for CoSA in Canada in that it provides an in-depth look at the process dynamics of CoSAs through site case studies. The report addresses the question of what goes on in a circle of support and accountability, something that has not previously been examined. The reported noted the challenges with sustainable funding for CoSA across the country. In fact, most projects will lose their Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) as of the end of March 31, 2015. However, for MCCO our existing contract with CSC is still in effect until March 31 2018. To sustain our work we continue to look for sustainable funding to offset the ending of NCPC funding which accounted for 30% of our program dollars.

A close look at the inner workings of CoSA reveals a program where dedicated staff and volunteers strive to provide vital integration support to individuals being released from federal correctional facilities into communities across Canada. Most importantly, this report demonstrates how CoSA programs provide a necessary compliment to formalized support structures through a focus on building supportive relationships between recently released offenders, staff, and circle volunteers who understand what’s at stake in holding offenders accountable to the community.

The full report can be found at: www.ccjc.ca

About CCJC: CCJC is a national faith-based not-for-profit organization that promotes restorative justice and sponsors initiatives to build safer communities. In 2009 CCJC assisted in an inter-agency funding proposal to the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) to conduct a national demonstration of CoSA. This resulted in the CoSA National Demonstration Project. CCJC served as the umbrella organization holding the Contribution Agreement for this Project. Further background can be found at www.ccjc.ca

About CoSA Canada: In 2014 individual CoSA sites collaborated to form CoSA Canada, a national organization dedicated to building upon the success of CoSA across the country while increasing the stability of sites through exploring innovative funding options. Further information can be found at cosacanada.com.

About MCC Ontario: Mennonite Central Committee is the relief, development and peace organization of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches in Canada. MCC Ontario has been involved with Circles of Support and Accountability since its inception, over 20 years ago.

MCC Ontario Contact :​ Eileen Henderson​, eileenhenderson@mcco.ca905-464-3940

CCJC Media Contacts: Kathryn Bliss (English), kbliss@ccjc.ca, (613) 563–1688 ex.101 
Laurent Champagne (français), acmontreal@hotmail.com, (514) 978-8881 

CoSA Canada Media Contact: David Byrne, davidbyrne@ptbochaplaincy.org, (705) 775-4172


 

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