Press release for Vancouver Fraser Valley CoSA
Sexual Offenders being released
How is your community responding?
As you go about your daily activities of work and pleasure, there is group of highly trained volunteers working in the background trying to ensure your safety.
You’ve probably never heard of them, nor do they wish to draw attention to themselves for praise or admiration. They simply wish to ensure your safety, and the safety of your family and the community, without fanfare.
In another place, far from our normal realm of thoughts and activities, men and women are being released from Federal and Provincial jails and placed in your community.
Some of these released individuals are sexual offenders, who realize that they are at risk to reoffend.
The offenders are released to halfway houses, and some find their own accommodation. They are released into the community with conditions such as staying away from parks, schools, day cares, and swimming pools. No alcohol, drugs or weapons. Curfews. No contact with victims or their families. (Note: these conditions vary with each released offender and may not include all of the conditions listed above).
They have Parole Officers that monitor their activities. And the PO’s do a good job.
But the sexual offenders still reach out for help because they feel that they are at risk to reoffend. Many don’t have any supports in the community. They are encouraged to reintegrate. They are encouraged to find a job. But after years of disordered desires, incarceration, abandonment from families and friends, negative articles about them on the internet and disdain from the public, “normal” life can be difficult.
Many a citizen has said, “Put them in jail and throw away the key”. But the reality is this. Most sexual offenders spend only a few years in jail, and by law, they must be released. In fact, almost every inmate, no matter what the crime, is released.
So, who is this volunteer group that wishes to protect women and your children? Maybe it’s time to get to know them.
They are CoSA (Circles of Support and Accountability), a not-for-profit society that has been protecting your families for the last 20 years.
Their well-trained volunteers meet with the released inmates (called core members) once a week (in groups of 3-4) for a minimum of 1 year, and in many circles, for numerous years. The goal is “no more victims”.
The results have been astonishing. In 20 years, with over 250 released sexual offenders (both men and women), over 95% of them have not reoffended.
These CoSA circles are not mandated by the government, though the government loves CoSA. They are not mandated by CSC (Correctional Service Canada) and the BC Correctional Centers, though both organizations also love what CoSA does.
The key is that all jails know about CoSA. All chaplains, parole officers and police departments know about CoSA. And they highly recommend that released sexual offenders contact CoSA.
Because CoSA works.
CoSA is not soft on crime, nor are they bleeding hearts. They strongly hold the released inmate to their conditions of release and keep them accountable. And on the reintegration side, CoSA works with the offender to change their thoughts and behaviors, show remorse for their victims, understand the destructive nature of their crime, stop self-centered thinking, overcome anger, learn to trust, find a job, examine life goals, learn how to deal with temptation, deal with previous hurts, work on forgiveness, and develop positive healthy relationships.
The CoSA volunteers are not professional health care providers, counselors or psychiatrists. They are regular folks that care about you and keeping your family safe.
They ask for nothing in return.
CoSA is not a religious organization, though many of the volunteers come from a variety of faith backgrounds.
What do the released inmates say about CoSA and the volunteers?
“It’s important that the volunteers understand how much they do for us, the Core Members. It takes a very special kind of person to push aside the stereotypes and views that the public has about sex offenders and devote time and effort to get directly involved in our lives. In a world where most people would rather see us "rot behind bars", it’s comforting to know there's actually people who care enough to help us reintegrate back into society and become better citizens.
Each week I look forward to meeting and talking with the volunteers in my Circle. I know that I can talk to them about anything. I get support and guidance on any issues I'm dealing with as well as the encouragement to keep moving forward in positive directions. They aren't afraid to ask me the "hard questions" or challenge my decisions. They help me see things from different perspectives and gain better insights. But, most importantly, they let me know that I'm not alone. They're here by my side.”
CoSA keeps a pretty low profile. Maybe that’s why you haven’t heard about them.
If you wish to learn more, go to https://www.vfvcosa.org/video.
And CoSA is always looking for more volunteers as the need is so great, and ever growing. And of course, donations are always accepted.
Go to https://www.vfvcosa.org/.