Church program offers hope to released sex offenders

July 20, 2017
Posted in Blog
July 20, 2017 Editor
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CATHOLIC VANCOUVER JUL 17, 2017

BY AGNIESZKA KRAWCZYNSKI

photo above: Maureen Donegan heads the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s prison ministry, including the COSA program for released sex offenders. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

WN: I had the good fortune for many years of helping lead CoSA with Maureen Donegan. I also am fortunate to now serve on the national Board of CoSA Canada, the umbrella organization that channels government funding to 15 sites across Canada. Funding that was not renewed by the Harper government (on the contrary!) began April 1, 2017, to the tune of $7.5 million over 5 years thanks to huge support from the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale.

excerpts:

VANCOUVER—A little-known church ministry is reaching out to the most ostracized and despised criminals in the system.

Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) provides sex offenders with friendship, accountability, and help finding housing and employment the moment they step out from behind bars.

One study found COSA decreases recidivism:
83% less sexual reoffending (1 vs. 6)
73% less violent reoffending (4 vs 15)
71% less reoffending of any kind (5 vs 17)
“The day I got out, I met these four people who had all read my file – and it’s horrible, horrible – but they chose to love me,” said Max*, who finished serving a two-year federal sentence in a B.C. prison in 2007.

The released sex offender now meets weekly with a handful of COSA volunteers who listen to his struggles and are not afraid to ask tough questions.

“They challenge me on my thinking. They know that when I’m really struggling, I want to go into preoccupying about pornography or sex or thinking about going and buying it. I’m learning and it’s really hard.

CoSA helps former offenders:

       • cope with emotions (depression, anger, hopelessness)
       • improve social communication skills
       • learn practical life skills (shopping, budgeting)
       • find housing
       • discover spirituality
       • access medical/mental health
       • participate in recreation/social activities
       • overcome addictions/substance abuse
       • find employment/job training
       • access education
       • learn parenting skills
       • participate in cultural activities
       • obtain I.D.

Please click on: Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA

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Editor

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.

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