To substantially reduce the risk of future victimization of community members by assisting and supporting high risk released individuals in their task of integrating with the community and leading responsible, productive and accountable lives.
What is a CoSA?
Circles of Support and Accountability are groups of 4 - 7 volunteers who are primarily from the faith community. They are committed to enhancing public safety by supporting community re-entry for former high risk offenders through covenanting, meeting and walking daily with them. The full Circle meets on a regular basis. It serves both as a caring community offering support, and as a responsible community,concerned that public safety not be compromised. CoSA acknowledges the ongoing pain and need for healing of survivors of abuse.
Community-based volunteers possess a broad range of skills and experience. Many also have previous experience working with marginalized people. It is vital to the goal of achieving greater community safety that a caring, supportive Circle be created for the former offender. The Circle members need to be committed to the principles of responsibility, accountability and healing.
What makes a Circle work?
Circles are not like a program which has an ending date. They are about relationships that are ongoing. On a continuum, Circles are more about being family than they are about therapeutic interventions. Modeling is a major focus of what occurs in a Circle and, in that sense, what is caught is more important than what is taught. It has been observed that the most powerful aspect of a Circle is the sense of belonging that occurs both for the offender and for the Circle members. It is because of this belonging, because of the degree of attachment that is formed, that CoSA has such a profound impact.
Community Based, Professionally Supported
A successful CoSA is a group of well-trained and dedicated volunteers who are supported by the professional community in the jurisdiction. Local professionals can include: the police, community chaplains, community and institutional correctional personnel, members of the victim/survivor community, psychologists, politicians and other key community workers.
Under normal conditions, once a person is convicted and sentenced, levels of incarceration and restrictions of freedom start high and are gradually decreased over the course of the sentence. Corrections research suggests that facilitated community reintegration and treatment reduces the risk of re-offense. As well, mental health research suggests that strong social networks reduce negative symptoms and difficulties during the re-integration process. Unfortunately, offenders with the highest risk of re-offending are often released at sentence completion with no official community reintegration process in place.
Circles of Support and Accountability attempt to address the dilemma of individuals who have been convicted of violent offenses and have no positive, pro-social mechanisms to assist with their safe adjustment to the community upon release.
For more information, or to get involved contact:
Moira Brownlee or Jayson Besserer
Circles of Support & Accountability
#210, 2946 32 Street NE
Calgary, AB T1Y 6J7