by Ryan Siegmund
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) has decided to terminate its contractual commitment to Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) projects in Canada, effective March 31.
In a decision that would end a 20-year relationship, CSC says it no longer has $2.2 million in its budget to support the program, which is internationally recognized for reducing recidivism rates among high-risk persons who have sexually offended.
CoSA was informed of the government’s intentions last week. It believes this to be a major backward step for community safety and is urging the government to reverse the decision.
Eileen Henderson, Restorative Justice Coordinator, Mennonite Central Committee Ontario (MCCO), says police and government cannot be solely responsible for public safety. Groups like CoSA have the opportunity to be involved in building safer communities and are committed but require assistance with the resources to do that work.
“I would certainly encourage the government to not limit their thinking around what makes communities safer to simply sentencing and incarceration as their only tools, but to look beyond that to release and a safe integration back into the community. For the most part, offenders will be returning to the community post incarceration!”
CoSA currently has more than 700 volunteers nation-wide supporting 155 former offenders.
Ed Vandenberg, CoSA Project Associate, has welcomed the opportunity to work with police, public authorities and members of the community in preventing further harm by building supportive and accountable groups around individuals who have been convicted of sexual offences.
“I'm sure the officers I've worked with at the high risk unit (Toronto Police Service) would agree that this approach toward building community with the goal of community safety in mind has produced often unexpected results in the form of lower crime rates and better relationships.”
The effectiveness of the CoSA model has been studied and published in a series of peer reviewed journals. All indicate reduced rates of sexual and other re-offending among CoSA participants. These findings have helped develop CoSA project developments in the USA and UK.
Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Centre was to conclude a $7.5 million dollar national evaluation of CoSA in September 2014.
(Blue Line Magazine)