SMART FY 15 Promoting Evidence Integration in Sex Offender Management: Applying Circles of Support and Accountability in Indian Country Project Sites

SMART FY 15 Promoting Evidence Integration in Sex Offender Management: Applying Circles of Support and Accountability in Indian Country Project Sites – The Circles of Support and Accountability initiative emerged in Canada in the 1990s as a community-based, restorative justice movement that “focuses on the need to engage the community in the reintegration process.” In FY 2012, the SMART Office selected two project sites, Durham, North Carolina and Multnomah County, Oregon, and a training and technical assistance provider to support its Promoting Evidence Integration in Sex Offender Management: Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) program. COSA projects are now underway or in progress in California, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Vermont. The COSA model fills a gap in services for some offenders left by criminal justice policy; essentially, those at highest risk of re-offense who are being released at the end of their sentences without a formal process of aftercare. COSA programs were created, in part, to address the threat perceived by communities that sex offenders pose when they return from prison. COSA enlists volunteers from the community to aid in the management of sex offenders. COSA typically targets male offenders who have a long history of offending, failure in treatment, antisocial values and attitudes, are at high-risk for reoffending (for new sex or other offenses), and held until the end of their prison sentence and released with no probation or parole supervision. Each Circle consists of a Core Member (the sex offender) and four to six community volunteers. A COSA volunteer meets with the Core Member daily and the Circle meets once a week. The key to the program is “a relationship scheme based on friendship and accountability for behavior.” COSA programs have been initiated and implemented by faith-based organizations, community volunteer groups, and as an adjunct to criminal justice community corrections programs. The COSA model has an underlying philosophy of restorative justice, in that it focuses on the needs of the victim and offender and involves the community in resolving issues. In this respect, COSA appears to be a natural fit for Indian Country. The First Nations in Canada and American Indians/Alaska Natives in the United States have had a strong influence on the North American restorative justice movement. Current Closing Date for Applications: May 18, 2015.

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