From 2014-2016, EMO developed a nationally-recognized Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) project. That pilot project has ended, but the following provides background on the model.
How Circles Work
An individual sex offender (the core member) is surrounded by an inner circle of community volunteers, who meet weekly as a group through the first year of the core member's release from prison. This inner circle is supported in turn by an outer circle of professionals and the CoSA coordinator.
Volunteers in the CoSA inner circle model pro-social relationships, socialization and healthy boundaries. Volunteers come from diverse backgrounds, working together to do more than any one person can do alone.
Sex offenders face numerous unique challenges upon their release from prison, such as finding housing and employment while bearing a serious, public criminal record. In addition, their social connections have often been severed. Isolation and secrecy can increase the likelihood of reoffending. Circles of Support and Accountability aims to decrease that isolation, to help core members establish healthy relationships by providing social support, and offering an additional resource, alongside the professional treatment and supervision that sex offenders are already provided. Circles address one of the top criminogenic needs in reentry: positive peers and associates.
History & Hope
Circles of Support and Accountability started in 1994 in Ontario, Canada, when a Mennonite pastor was contacted by prison officials to offer guidance to a high-risk sex offender being released into the community. He organized a small group of volunteers, who successfully supported the offender; until his death, the man did not re-offend. Since then, the program has been replicated in cities across Canada, Europe and the United States. It works—studies have shown recidivism rates decline by over 70 percent, and core members report gratitude for the social support they might never have found otherwise. The circles are a powerful tool for our community response to the fact of sex offending in our midst. They help reduce harm and prevent crime.