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CoSA


Communities of Support and Accountability (CoSA)

Circles of Support & Accountability | Resources | Get Involved | Upcoming Events | Contact Us

"I was in prison and you visited me." The Gospel of Matthew 25:36b
"We are all worth more than the worst thing we have ever done in our life." Sister Helen Prejean

Through Communities of Support & Accountability (CoSA), EMO continues its long-standing endeavor to build a network of faith and community partners who approach the legal system with a restorative justice lens—empowering and equipping the community to help persons impacted by the criminal justice system, including offenders, victims, staff and their families.

What does "community" really mean?
Communities of Support & Accountability seeks to prevent, end, and help healing from crime and violence. We start with the perhaps radical notion that people whose lives are impacted by crime, violence, and the legal system are part of our community. People who have committed crimes, victims and survivors of crime, professionals in the legal system, and the loved ones of all these people are part of our community. We all must be involved in figuring out what that means for the rest of us. CoSA's ultimate goal is restoring relationship, that all may have a safe, appropriate place in the community. We engage diverse partners for lasting collaboration toward our shared goals of justice, healing and shalom.

Communities Restoring Justice
Restorative justice is a movement that recognizes healing is a process that continues beyond the courts and corrections. Community volunteers can help a person in the legal system deepen social, emotional and spiritual health, increasing their long-term stability. By offering practice in pro-social relationship-building, reentry mentorship is effective as it helps address one of the top criminogenic needs in reentry, that of positive peers and associates. Volunteers choosing to invest their time and energy demonstrate their commitment to building a place for every member of the community—for good.

Criminal Justice Sabbath
We collaborate with Christian and interfaith partners to create and distribute an annual worship guide for congregations to recognize a day set apart to remember those impacted by the criminal justice system. With prayers, reflections and study resources, these guides help connect the work of worship with service and social justice within the legal system. Download Criminal Justice Sunday Lenton Resource Guide.

Faith & Family Connections
Communities of Support & Accountability helps faith communities walk alongside individuals' families through incarceration and reentry. We coordinate congregational volunteers across the state to help families visit loved ones in prison. We seek to honor the important role family members, especially children, play as they feel the impact of incarceration from both inside and outside.


Circles of Support and Accountability

About the Circles of Support and Accountability
Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) follows a restorative justice model, with the goal of healing both individuals and a community after violent crime. The hope of CoSA is simple yet profound: No More Victims. Citizens are understandably concerned when a high-risk sex offender comes to live in their neighborhood. The vision of CoSA is that a community has the power to take part in the process of healing and restoring justice after sexual harm. Communities can play a role in decreasing future victimization.

How It Works: No one does this alone
An individual sex offender (the core member) is surrounded by an inner circle of community volunteers, who meet weekly as a group through the first year of the core member's release from prison. This inner circle is supported in turn by an outer circle of professionals and the CoSA coordinator.

CoSA

Volunteers in the CoSA inner circle model pro-social relationships, socialization and healthy boundaries. Volunteers come from diverse backgrounds, but with a shared commitment to the circle, offering the gift of friendship. They do not need to have experience in the criminal justice system, but rather bring voices from the whole community, working together to do more than any one person can do alone. Volunteers are provided with extensive training about sex offenders and safety. They are certified as Home for Good in Oregon mentors to understand the unique prison-to-community transition. Core members are selected for a good match with the program and participate voluntarily.

Circles Matter: No one is disposable
Sex offenders face numerous unique challenges upon their release from prison, such as finding housing and employment while bearing a serious, public criminal record. In addition, their social connections have often been severed. Isolation and secrecy can increase the likelihood of reoffending. Circles of Support and Accountability aims to decrease that isolation, to help core members establish healthy relationships by providing social support. We are an additional resource, alongside the professional treatment and supervision that sex offenders are already provided. Circles address one of the top criminogenic needs in reentry: positive peers and associates.

Refer a Core Member
Please contact us if you know someone releasing from an Oregon prison to the Portland metro area who you think might be a good fit as a CoSA Core Member. We have a limited number of circles operating each year and will reach out to current Oregon inmates if we have a circle available for them. Contact us at cosa@emoregon.org or (503) 988-8580.

History & Hope
Circles of Support and Accountability started in 1994 in Ontario, Canada, when a Mennonite pastor was contacted by prison officials to offer guidance to a high-risk sex offender being released into the community. He organized a small group of volunteers, who successfully supported the offender; until his death, the man did not re-offend. Since then, the program has been replicated in cities across Canada, Europe and the United States. We are excited to bring CoSA to Oregon because it works—studies have shown recidivism rates decline by over 70 percent, and core members report gratitude for the social support they might never have found otherwise. The circles are a powerful tool for our community response to the fact of sex offending in our midst. They help reduce harm and prevent crime. Together, we can work for a future with no more victims.

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Resources: Learn More about Circles of Support and Accountability

Background about CoSA:
•  Analysis of CoSA effectiveness and Cost Benefit of CoSA in Minnesota 
•  Effectiveness of CoSA in Vermont 
•  Effectiveness of CoSA in Canada
•  CoSA Trainer Andrew McWhinnie  
•  CoSA Trainer Dr. Robin Wilson 

Articles about CoSA:
•   Durham's CoSA project featured by Penzey's Spices - with recipes!
•  “Courageous Communities”  
•  “Making friends with a pedophile”   
•  “Does 'befriending' sex offenders stop new crimes?”   
•  "The outcast at the gate"
•  "Getting Beyond Prison: A Vermont case study"

CoSA programs around the world:
•  CoSA in Fresno, California
•  CoSA in Durham, North Carolina  
•  CoSA in the United Kingdom  
•  CoSA in Minneapolis 
•  CoSA in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Learn more about sexual abuse:
•  The Spiritual Alliance to Stop Intimate Violence (SAIV)  
•  Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service (OAASIS)  
•  Boys Don't Tell    
•  Pastoral Preparation to Respond to Abuse
•  The Center for Trauma Support Services

Learn more about sexual abusers and treatment:
•  Dr. James Cantor on psychology of pedophilia  - video
•  8 Things Everyone Should Know about Sexual Abuse and Sexual Offending, from ATSA
•  How we all can be involved in preventing sexual violence, from ATSA
•  Public Policy to prevent child abuse, from ATSA

Restorative Justice (RJ), the framework for CoSA:
•  RJ in a nutshell - video
•  Neuroscience of RJ - video
•  NPR article on finding hope in restorative healing after crime

Congregational resources
•  Commissioning Services and other ways for congregations to support their CoSA volunteers – coming soon!

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Get Involved

Volunteer
Circles of Support and Accountability is possible only because of community volunteers like you, who are committed to reducing harm and helping prevent future victimization. We welcome volunteers as individuals or small groups. Our philosophy is based in restorative justice, believing that the community has an important role to play in reentry and public safety.

A team of roughly four volunteers works with each client (the Circle's "Core Member") to form the Circle. The Circle meets weekly as a group and volunteers check in throughout the week, for the Core Member's first year out of prison. Our Circles primarily serve clients who are high risk and often who have very serious criminal histories, including those with sex offenses in their records.

Your safety as a volunteer is of utmost importance to us. Through training and our community partnerships with local and international professionals in the field , volunteers are empowered with evidence-based knowledge about risks and ways to help people who often are misunderstood and feared.

Volunteers are trained by local professionals in criminal justice and treatment fields. They are certified as reentry mentors through the Oregon Department of Corrections. Volunteers thus enjoy the opportunity to learn about the legal system and prison issues in a hands-on way. This volunteer opportunity offers a way to serve the community that concretely makes our society safer, and it is extremely rewarding for the volunteers who are involved. This work uses an individual's personal social skills and strengths, as well as the power of a team working cooperatively.

Research has shown Circles to be an effective way to reduce recidivism. Evidence shows what communities have known for generations: that humanity - compassionate relationship that balances support and accountability - is what truly changes lives for good.

To get involved or find out whether this is a good fit for you, please contact CoSA at (503) 988-8580 or cosa@emoregon.org. Thank you for taking part in the restorative justice movement with CoSA.

Subscribe to CoSA's monthly e-mail newsletter!
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Thank you for helping our communities to have No More Victims.

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Upcoming Events

October 21-23
Circles of Support & Accountability (CoSA) Volunteer Training. Friday, 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Interchurch Center, 0245 SW Bancroft, Portland. Session I, "The CoSA Model," will explore CoSA history, Circle dynamics and reentry realities for sex offenders. Session II, "Restoring Justice," will cover supervision, treatment and the community role in restorative justice. Session III, Trauma and Healing," will cover ACEs, victim voices, addictions and self care. RSVP for this training and find out more at (503) 988-8580 or cosa@emoregon.org.

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Contact Us
Communities of Support and Accountability
phone (503) 988-8580, (971) 279-9724
email cosa@emoregon.org.

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