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Communities of Support and Accountability (CoSA)
Criminal Justice Ministries with EMO

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

Criminal Justice Sabbath
We invite you to make space for people impacted by the criminal justice system - in your hearts and in your schedule. Dedicate a day of your community’s life together to think about, pray about, learn about, and act for the people with lived experience of our justice system: offenders, victims of crime, legal and corrections staff, law enforcement, and the families of all these people.​ This year, we invite you to hold a Criminal Justice Sabbath on any day that works in your community's calendar​​. Download the 2017 Criminal Justice Sabbath Guide for resources for worship, preaching, adult education, and action.

Faith ​leaders, Spiritual Directors, Outreach or Mission committees,​ teachers,​ education groups, and​ individuals​
:​ please read and use this guide in your community, to learn and act for justice.
Find the full text of sermons other faith leaders have given for Criminal Justice Sabbath:
>>There is Good News Even in a Broken System
​>> 2016 Sabbath Resource Guide​ - three sermons included

"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. CoSA is a member of the Restorative Justice Coalition of Oregon (RJCO).

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.

Dive deep into the ways incarceration impacts families, through this slideshow prepared for CoSA by Portland State University students as part of their senior capstone class for Prof. DeEtte Beghtol Waleed. Watch a short, powerful video in which a woman shares her experiences growing up with a father being arrested and serving a prison sentence. Buckingham, Ispas, Metz, et al. "Incarcerated Women and Drug-Related Charges." Presented at Portland State University, Portland, Ore.; Nov. 28, 2016. 

Policy, Education & Reform
Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon is committed to long-term social good, offering events for individuals and congregations to learn, advocate and serve. Criminal justice issues are an essential part of our events such as Interfaith Advocacy Day and the Collins Lectures, public policy engagement, and interfaith dialogue.

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

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Get Involved

  • Help kids and family members visit their loved ones in prison, through a new visitation project we are developing with the Dept. of Corrections.
  • Learn more about the intersection of justice and faith at our annual Collins Lecture.
  • Advocate for criminal justice reform in Salem at our Interfaith Advocacy Day.
  • Educate a faith community or other group you are a part of about criminal justice issues, and hold a Criminal Justice Sabbath as a time to remember those persons in our community who are impacted by the legal system.

To get involved or find out whether this is a good fit for you, please contact CoSA at (503) 221-1054 or (971) 279-9724, or Thank you for taking part in the restorative justice movement with CoSA.

Subscribe to CoSA's monthly e-mail newsletter!
* indicates required

Thank you for helping our communities to have No More Victims.

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Upcoming Events

Check back for upcoming events.

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Contact Us
Communities of Support and Accountability
phone (503) 221-1054, (971) 279-9724

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Circles of Support and Accountability

From 2014-2016, EMO developed a nationally-recognized Circles of Support and Accountability project. That pilot project has ended, but the following provides background on the model.

How Circles Work
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.


Volunteers in the CoSA inner circle model pro-social relationships, socialization and healthy boundaries. Volunteers come from diverse backgrounds, working together to do more than any one person can do alone.

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, and offering 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.

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. 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.

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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

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

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