SMART FY 12 Promoting Evidence Integration in Sex Offender Management: Circles of Support and Accountability for Project Sites

Every day, sex offenders are released from incarceration without any formalized community supervision to control their behavior once in the community.

These individuals are free to leave the state (or jurisdiction) and are not subject to any restrictions on their residential and employment choices,

credit: YouTube

interactions with community members, or travel.

This population poses a risk to the community to which they return, raises community concerns about safety, and is difficult to monitor and provide the necessary stabilizing services to.

The COSA model fills a gap in services for some offenders left by criminal justice policy; essentially, those at highest risk of reoffense who are being released at the end of their sentences without a formal process of aftercare.

COSA programs were created, in part, to address the threat perceived by communities that sex offenders pose when they return from prison.

The COSA initiative emerged in Canada in the 1990s as a community-based, restorative justice movement that “focuses on the need to engage the community in the reintegration process.” At its core, COSA enlists volunteers from the community to aid in the management of high-risk sex offenders.

COSA typically targets male offenders who have a long history of offending, failure in treatment, antisocial values and attitudes, are at high-risk for reoffending (for new sex or other offenses), and who are likely held until the expiration of their prison sentence and released with no probation or parole supervision.

Each Circle consists of a Core Member (sex offender) and 4 to 6 community volunteers.

A COSA volunteer meets with the Core Member daily and the Circle meets once a week during the initial 60 – 90 days.

The key to the program is “a relationship scheme based on friendship and accountability for behavior.” COSA programs have been initiated and implemented by faith-based organizations, community volunteer groups, and as an adjunct to criminal justice community corrections programs.

In those programs working in tandem with corrections professionals, a Circle is typically made up of volunteers, a Core Member (sex offender), and an Outer Circle (professionals); Circle volunteers work in teams of 4 to 6 with a Core Member and are supported by an Outer Circle.

Goals, Objectives, and Deliverables The purpose of this project is to support the development of COSA initiatives in conjunction with community corrections programs.

That is, programs working in tandem with corrections professionals consisting of volunteers, a Core Member (sex offender), and an Outer Circle (community corrections professionals).

Additionally, there is a need to provide descriptive information on those sites and/or jurisdictions providing services to sex offenders based on the COSA model.

This information will improve the field’s understanding of the programmatic, service, and policy needs of sex offenders when released in the community.

Jurisdictions at the state or local level may apply and must agree to work with a SMART Office designated technical assistance provider to ensure COSA implementation fidelity and proper training of community volunteers.

Specific information on COSA volunteer training is available at

Sites will be selected for SMART Office funding based upon their responses to the Selection Criteria listed on page 14 and their commitment to:
• Building knowledge and new evidence.

• Implementing COSA with fidelity.

• Participating in an evaluation at a later date (should funds become available).

• Collecting program data.

• Working collaboratively with the SMART Office and the COSA training and technical assistance provider.

Agency: Department of Justice


Estimated Funding: $600,000

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This Cooperative Agreement is being awarded to The Regents of the University of Colorado under the Rocky Mountain - Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit.

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