“In December of 2013, while studying at the University of Ottawa, I found myself writing a research paper on the effectiveness of Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) for my Individual Intervention in Criminology course. I argued that the general public believes that individuals who commit sexual offences are ‘untreatable’ and are ‘destined to fail over and over again.’ Through research from various sources, I was able to see that Circles of Support and Accountability is an effective practice, based on restorative justice principles, that not only reduces recidivism by 80%, but furthermore assists participants to become an active member of society and create the grounds to encourage a prosocial life while ensuring the safety of others.
As I began writing this testimonial piece, I looked back over some of our Circle Reports from the last five years that I was involved with my Core Member. When I first met him in 2018, he shared that he often experienced moments of feeling self-conscious, participated in negative self-talk, struggled to get motivated, had a lack of confidence in conversing with people who may ask him questions regarding his past, and found going to new places where he did not know the area/procedures to be a bit challenging or would bring up insecurities. Fast forward to 2022 and this same Core Member over the five years he was with CoSA, accomplished many life goals such as remaining in the community, being granted Full Parole, having his own one-bedroom apartment, addressing health complications with a positive attitude, establishing a meaningful relationship, and developing friendships with pro-social individuals. The same Core Member who faced these struggles in 2018 made the decision to graduate from CoSA and had his final Circle Meeting in October of this year, stating ‘he was just too busy with life’!
When I first started volunteering with CoSA I would often be asked the same questions: ‘Aren’t you scared to volunteer with criminals?’, ‘How can you be willing to help a sex offender who has done such horrible things?’. Those who become involved in the criminal justice system are stigmatized by society and placed inside a box of pre-conceived ideas that offenders are not deserving of a second chance, should be locked up in prison for good, and cannot be rehabilitated. Members of the community will often turn their backs on those who have been to prison, especially individuals who have committed sexual offences.
CoSA, as an organization, allows for Core Members to have a voice and to be a part of an organization that is non-judgmental and advocates for No More Victims while being there one step at a time to assist them in their successful reintegration into society.”