CoSA: Where Did it Come From?
Circles of Support and Accountability - also referred to as CoSA - is a Canadian born concept that relies on a restorative justice framework. Restorative justice focuses on rehabilitating offenders through reconciliation with victims, as well as the community at large. Beginning in Hamilton, Ontario in 1994, a need for Circles was recognized. At the time, a former sex-offender was released into the community and many members of the community were fearful of his presence. As a result, this man received no support and was shunned by the community. Henry Neigh was the minister of a small church who decided to make a circle for the offender. The circle provided the offender with support and held him accountable for his actions. The circle was not only successful for the offender, but it also allowed members of the community to feel much safer. Thus, CoSA was born.
CoSA is designed for offenders who are deemed ‘high risk’ of reoffending. These individuals are often released from prison without being given the proper supports. “CoSA fills this gap by providing trained volunteers to act as friends. They provide the supports to help ex-offenders succeed, hold them accountable for their behaviours, and work closely with police and mental health professionals to raise the alarm if necessary”(CoSA Canada). The first study that evaluated Circles of Support and Accountability in Canada found that there was a 70% decrease of recidivism in the sexual offenders that were involved in Circles - as opposed to offenders who did not belong to Circles (Wilson et al, 2011).
Turnings utilizes the CoSA framework in their daily operations. Turnings was founded by Dan McGettigan in 1994 and Dan is still operating as the executive director of the organization today. The amount of active circles varies throughout the years and Turnings has been successful in working with dozens of individuals in the St. John’s area.