Friday, March 18, 2011

Topic: AfterCare - LifeAfter - Mentoring

AfterCare - LifeAfter - Mentoring - Reentry

Our purpose here is to show all sorts of programs which help former offenders on their reentry into society. To qualify for listing here the program must be geared, the opposite of the Second Chance Act, which excludes anyone with a sex offense from participating in the benefits of the Second Chance Act.

  • Circle For Recovery Ohio: DAYTON-The best thing people can do with their lives is to leave a positive influence on the hearts of others. Some accomplish this by volunteering at soup kitchens or teaching a Sunday school class. Yet others, like the people at Circle For Recovery Ohio are leaving a positive mark on the lives of ex-offenders so as to stop the cycle of recidivisms. Circle For Recovery Ohio (CFRO), located in the West Pavilion, One Elizabeth Place in Dayton, is a seventeen-week ex-offender Reentry and Drug Prevention Program for ex-offenders who are on parole.
  • COSA Nebraska: MISSION: The mission of COSA Nebraska is to enhance public safety by assisting persons who have committed sex offenses to successfully rejoin the community and avoid reoffending.
  • COSA Fresno California: The Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies at Fresno Pacific University, the Mennonite Brethren university headquartered in Fresno, received a $290,000 grant from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to develop COSA in the Fresno area. Created in Ontario, Canada, by a pastor, COSA seeks to reduce the risk of re-offense and ease offenders back into society.
  • MnCOSA Minnesota Circles of Support and Accountability

Guide to COSA Project Development Correctional Service Canada

Does 'befriending' sex offenders stop new crimes? (4-9-2010 UK)

"I said to myself my worst nightmare is someone who offended against very young girls because my nieces are those ages. Sure enough, that's exactly what I got."

Sarah from London is a volunteer working with a category of former prisoners few of us would feel comfortable meeting at all, let alone on a regular basis.

Along with four others she regularly meets a man convicted of serious sex offences against children who has since been released back into the community.

She's part of a "circle" which befriends but also monitors offenders. The idea came from Canada where a survey by the country's prison service found it reduced re-offending by 70%.

The first circles in the UK were formed in 2002 and there are currently 63 running across England and Wales. It is based on the premise that while some offenders have friends and family to return to when they come out of prison, others have not and the more isolated they are, the more likely they are to re-offend.

Sarah says she was partly inspired to volunteer by the press coverage surrounding the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

"There was a lot of press talking about paedophiles, lots of big splash front pages saying 'evil'. I started to think there's got to be a way to stop this from happening in the beginning."

Sarah joined her circle through child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, one of several organisations which run circles in the UK. Volunteers receive 20 hours of instruction and are supported by a liaison officer.

They meet offenders discreetly in local cafes where they talk about everything from what could lead to re-offending to finding work and fitting back into society.

Emotionally charged
Before the first meeting, they are told a lot of detail about the crimes and background of the offender. The meetings with the group - 4-6 volunteers plus the offender - are for about an hour, once a week, for the first few months, with the whole programme lasting one or two years. Each member of the group typically speaks to the offender on the phone at least once a week.

Despite her initial concerns, Sarah has been able to work with two offenders, both of whom have been imprisoned for offences against girls under 14. Sarah found the first encounter was highly emotionally charged.

"There's a lot of trepidation. You never know how you're going to react. Your first instinct is to feel disgust and revulsion over what they've done."

Sarah believes by questioning offenders about their behaviour and helping them settle back into everyday life she has helped to keep them from re-offending. In the case of the offender she is currently working with, Sarah believes her group has helped him turn round a long history of offending behaviour.

"I don't consider myself a bleeding-heart liberal. I'm someone who looks at the big picture and tries to find a solution. As far as the police tell us he hasn't offended in five years. He doesn't want to re-offend again, he doesn't want to create any more victims."

Grooming spotted
The Lucy Faithfull Foundation says of the 35 offenders who have taken part in their circles project so far, only three have been found to have re-offended.

In one of these cases, volunteers in East Anglia say they became suspicious of the offender's behaviour. Circle volunteer Ian says from the start they felt there was something wrong.

"He was telling us things which just didn't sound right. We reported it. The police reckoned he was grooming a young boy."

The offender was subsequently sent back to prison.

Donald Findlater, director of research and development at The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, says great care is taken in choosing which offenders are selected. A determination to change their behaviour pattern is key.

"Not all sex offenders are suitable for a circle. Professional staff need to assess that the individual is committed to leading a good life and keen to get support in doing this."

He feels in the vast majority of cases the circles have been effective.

"I have no doubt that circles are making a tangible difference to the lives that sex offenders lead and to the safety of the public."

Circles are part of a wider programme to rehabilitate sex offenders. The National Offender Management Service offers treatment to around 1,200 sex offenders a year in prison and the same number who have been released back into the community.

Many experts with experience in rehabilitating sex offenders agree circles have potential to stop re-offending, but they are only part of the overall effort to stop further crimes being committed.

"Circles have a lot to offer, particularly in cases of very socially isolated sexual offenders or offenders," says David Middleton, professor of community and criminal justice at De Montfort University, and former head of the government's sex offender strategy and programmes.

"However they are not a substitute for experienced and well trained professionals."

The circles projects are part funded by government money channelled through local police, probation and offender management budgets. This frustrates some victims group who feel more money should be directed at those who have been abused.

Many are also highly sceptical that sex offenders can be rehabilitated. Peter Saunders, chief executive of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood, feels while circles may have some value, there are more reliable ways of monitoring offenders.

"Abusers cannot be trusted at their word. We tend to favour the idea that these kind of offenders need to be electronically tagged for a very long time."

For now, have a great day and a better tomorrow.
eAdvocate (BACK to the Top Page)

No comments: