By Justina Reichel
Majority of those supported by CoSA groups have not re-offended
Although it has been operating in Edmonton for less than two years, a program to help stop released sex offenders from re-offending in their communities is experiencing remarkable success.
Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) is composed of community volunteers who provide a “circle” of support for sex offenders released from jail to help integrate them back into the community while holding them accountable.
The main goal of CoSA, whose mantra is “No More Victims,” is to reduce the risk of future sex crimes by assisting and supporting released offenders who are often shunned by their friends, families, and communities out of fear.
Susan Logan, executive director of the Edmonton-based Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre, was the main driving force in bringing the program back to Edmonton, where it had previously failed due to a critical lack of funding.
“CoSA has clearly demonstrated through its history that, given support, people can live without re-offending, not only sexually but in other crime areas,” Logan told The Epoch Times.
“By creating that pseudo-community, providing those supports to the person, it gives them that opportunity. Otherwise, if they’re just stigmatized and isolated it’s very difficult for them to make the changes they need to make to be able to live crime-free in communities.”
Logan says she has seen a fundamental change in the individuals who have been involved with various CoSAs in Alberta.
“In the majority of groups that CoSA has done, people have not re-offended sexually. They may have done other things, but they have not re-offended sexually,” she says.
CoSA has clearly demonstrated through its history that, given support, people can live without re-offending.
— Susan Logan, Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre
“But even when [re-offending] happens, these are people who develop caring relationships to try to support the person as best they can, no matter what’s happening.”
The program returned to Edmonton in 2011 and has been operating in Calgary since 2002. Logan estimates at any given time there are between 10-15 circles working with offenders in Alberta.
Logan notes the Alberta program is particularly crucial because of central Alberta’s Bowden Institution. Bowden is a main prison centre for sex offenders on the Prairies, who are regularly released from the institution after serving their terms.