Circles of Support and Accountability Canada, or CoSA Canada as it is also known, is an informal group of Circle of Support and Accountability (CoSA) providers in Canada. There are currently 15 CoSA sites operating in six provinces in the country (July 2015). A list of each CoSA site, with contact information, can be found here.
Circles of Support and Accountability is a reintegration initiative, based on restorative justice principles, with community safety in mind. CoSA providers train volunteers to work with people who have been incarcerated for committing sexual offences and held to the end of their sentence because of their high-risk to reoffend. A circle consists of three to five volunteers who meet regularly with a ‘core member’ as a group and one-on-one, to help with reintegration challenges, refer the core member to community resources (relating to housing, employment, medical/psychological needs, etc) and challenge any behaviour that might lead to re-offending or breaching of legal conditions.
Purpose of CoSA Canada (as stated in their Bylaw) is to:
1. Provide an association of CoSA sites in Canada;
2. Support CoSA sites in Canada and foster mutual accountability;
3. Develop and promote public education initiatives;
4. Create a national voice for CoSA;
5. Advocate for legislative reform;
6. Collaborate with like-minded agencies, services and governing bodies, and seek leading edge practices in the furtherance of these objects.
CoSA began in 1994 in Hamilton, Ontario and has since spread across Canada. CoSA has, on average, 700 CoSA volunteers nation-wide supporting the crime-free re-integration of 150-200 sexual offenders each year.
To date, four studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the CoSA model have been published in peer-reviewed journals, all of them showing the same outcome: dramatically reduced rates of sexual and other reoffending among CoSA participants. These findings have encouraged the United Kingdom and American governments to support CoSA project development in many communities. Based on the Canadian CoSA model, several other countries, such as South Korea and The Netherlands, have set up CoSA programs in their jurisdictions.