Ottawa invests $7.48 million in program that aims to prevent sex offenders from reoffending

The federal government announced in May 2017, it will provide CoSA with $7.48 million in funding. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

The federal government is committing $7.48 million to a program that aims to prevent convicted sex offenders from reoffending.

The money will go to the Circle of Support and Accountability, or CoSA, which currently operates in 14 communities in the country including London.

READ MORE: Feds defunding program for freed high-risk sex offenders

“The first thing we’re going to do is take the bulk of that money and send it out to existing sites,” David Byrne, chair of CoSA’s board of directors, explained on The Andrew Lawton Show on Tuesday.

“Most of these sites have been running on little to no money for a number of years. Another pot of that money is going to be going towards establishing a national office. We hope that this increases our ability to offer services across the country. The final bit is we need to look at communities across Canada that are not being served by CoSA. My sense is, wherever there’s a sex offender that’s being released in Canada, they should have the ability to access this service.”

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Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale noted that re-establishing funding for the program, which was previously cut in 2014, demonstrates their commitment to evidence-based criminal justice policy.

“This project will help reduce victimization and keep our communities safe by holding ex-offenders accountable for their actions and giving them the support they need to become responsible and productive members of society.”

CoSA helps support former offenders by facilitating practical needs, providing emotional support, developing strategies and solutions to everyday problems and concerns, and challenging behaviours and attitudes that may be associated with the offending cycle. The program also has a “zero tolerance” approach.

“What we would do is the second that we start to see with one of our clients some troubling behaviour, we would get in touch with those authorities and say, ‘We’re going to provide you with the information — you’re the professionals in the justice field, you guys know what to do with it.’ CoSAs across the country have those really strong relationships with local police and parole and probation officers depending on what type of a client you’re working with.”

READ MORE: Program helping sex offenders reintegrate at risk of closing again

According to a study, participants who take part in the program have a 5.6 per cent rate of recidivism, compared to 22 per cent of those who don’t take part. Byrne added that research also found that the two greatest predictors of the likelihood of reoffending are environment and social connections.

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“If you’re simply not spending time around people in your victim class, if you’re staying out of the places where you would get in trouble, then it becomes much, much less likely that you’d reoffend. The other one… is your ability to build healthy social relationships in the community after you’re released.”

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