This chapter reviews the history, features, and effectiveness of Canada's Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA), which assists in the community reintegration of sexual offenders.
Prior to COSA, sexual offenders at highest risk of reoffending were being released at the end of their prison sentences without a formal process of aftercare. In focusing on men who have served their full sentence for a sexual offense, COSA's target offenders are those at high risk for reoffending after their release. COSA's stated goal is "to promote successful integration of released men into the community by providing support, advocacy, and a way to be meaningfully accountable in exchange for living safely in the community" (Correctional Services of Canada, 2002). COSA consists of two "circles," an inner circle that consists of community volunteers and the ex-offender (known as a core member) and an outer circle of professionals who have volunteered their expertise in supporting the inner circle. The inner circle manages the daily aspects of the core member's community reentry; more difficult or complicated issues (e.g., breach of conditions, treatment concerns, and reports to law enforcement or child protection) are addressed with the assistance of the outer circle. Although seven community volunteers for the inner circle were envisioned at COSA's outset, difficulties in volunteer recruitment led to a realistic inner-circle size of five volunteers. This chapter reviews the volunteer recruitment and training components of COSA. The chapter also reports on two independent evaluation studies that examined COSA's effectiveness. Evaluations of both the COSA pilot project and the Canadian national replication show that sexual reoffending by COSA core members has been significantly less than that of the matching comparison samples and also generally less than that projected by Static-99 survival curves. 4 tables and 50 references
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