CoSA Funding Cuts

10 Nov, 2015

The transition from a penitentiary to the outside can be an incredibly difficult one, which recent inmates often find themselves facing alone. For this reason, there have been programs designed to help them receive the support they need when tackling all the adjustments and difficulties they must face during their transition. Circles of Support and Accountability, or CoSA for short, are one of the methods that have been developed to help high-risk sex offenders, in particular, in their transition. Each circle typically consists of one offender and a small group of three to five trained volunteers, who meet on a regular basis. The frequency and duration of meetings depends on the particular offender and their changing needs. The CoSA program started in 1994 in Canada, and has since been adapted by multiple other countries due to its phenomenal success. Over the course of its life, multiple studies showed an average of 70-83% effectiveness at reducing recidivism.Certain studies even showed up to 95% effectiveness. This is good news not only for the community at large, but also for the individual offenders, who often face an enormous struggle to adapt to their new life and avoid re-offending once released from prison. Developmental psychologists broadly agree that“nurturing, stable and consistent relationships are the key to healthy growth, development and learning” and this is what CoSA provides for an inmate during their difficult transition. It is no wonder they have proven to be so effective.

Despite the obvious benefits of the CoSA program –many of which have been proven by the Canadian government itself—Harper decided to cut funding by half on March 31st, 2015, and removed the rest the following September. Since that time, many circles have had to be discontinued, and those that live on are struggling to find ways to fund their work. CoSA workers everywhere are expressing concern that the discontinuation of these circles of support will likely result in a rise in recidivism.

Fortunately, the Harper Government has been voted out, and Trudeau appears to have different views than him. Just before the elections, he expressed in an interview with Global New’s Tom Clark that he felt mandatory minimums were being ‘overused and abused’, and that keeping inmates in the penitentiaries as long as they are being kept is a waste of money, and does not necessarily make society any safer. Moreover, his approach to legalizing casual cannabis is one of preventing crime, rather than letting it happen and then punishing those involved. Although these stances are not a promise for change, they are at least good sign that his approach to the Canadian Corrections System is more preventative than punitive. Perhaps this mindset will lead him and his party to invest more in rehabilitative services for inmates in the future.

Alison

MSCM Volunteer

 

 

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