Guardian Charity Awards 2013 winner: Yorkshire and Humberside Circles of Support and Accountability
from the article from the Guardian:
YHCOSA works to rehabilitate and reintegrate socially isolated sexual offenders, with the aim of making sure they don't reoffend. Trained volunteers form "circles" of four to six members who meet with a "core member" once a week for around a year, discussing their offences, concerns and ideas for the future.
An Outcome Evaluation of Minnesota Circles of Support and Accountability (MnCoSA)
....The use of the COSA model with high-risk sex offenders began in a small Mennonite community in Canada in the early 1990s. Grounded in the tenets of the restorative justice philosophy, the COSA model attempts to help sex offenders successfully reenter http://www.doc.state.mn.us/publications/documents/9-12MnCOSAResearchinBrief.pdfthe community and, thus, increase public safety, by providing them with social support as they try to meet their employment, housing, treatment, and other social needs. Each COSA consists of anywhere between four and six community volunteers, one of whom is a primary volunteer, who meet with the offender on a regular basis. The results from several evaluations of the Canadian COSA model suggest it significantly reduces sex offender recidivism....
Restorative justice in a case of serious sexual assault
....I was raped twice, at knifepoint, by a man who had been released from prison, just 24 hours earlier. I was his 27th victim. I reported the crime immediately. He had walked off abruptly in the middle of the attack and I was sure of 2 things: he had done this before and he would do it again.
I was believed and the rapist was caught, sentenced and returned to prison. Justice was done. Since the assailant pled “guilty” he was allowed a third off his tariff and the Judge, “to spare me any further distress”, proceeded quickly to his decision. Although I was in court, nobody looked at me and nobody heard me.
After the crime: the power of restorative justice. Dialogues between victims and violent offenders
Violence, rape, murder and other abusive crimes: not usually pleasant subjects to read about, yet Susan Miller's book left this reader with a positive feeling. This is largely due to Miller herself, who presents the information in a straightforward, sympathetic but non-judgemental way; to Kim Book, who started the organization Victims' Voices Heard after her daughter was murdered; and to the participants themselves. Not all victims felt able to forgive, and this should not be a criterion for 'success'; but they followed the Amish precept: don't balance hurt with hate. Not all offenders accepted full responsibility. Miller divides restorative justice into diversion, taking the place of the criminal justice process for relatively minor cases, and 'therapeutic' RJ, where the offender is already in custody or has served a prison term. These cases are all in the latter category.
New Zealand: Rethinking contributes to Circles of Support and Accountability
Developed by a Mennonite community in Canada in the 1990's, COSA are groups of volunteers from the community into which the offender is released. They meet with a sex offender regularly, provide support for their reintegration and at the same time, hold them accountable for their actions. The volunteers receive extensive training and are fully informed of the offender's history, patterns of offending and the thoughts and behaviours that are likely to signal regression. The Circles begin working with the offender before they are released and are headed by a Circle Coordinator who is connected to other relevant agencies and professionals (e.g. probations, the police and clinicians) calling upon their support and advice as required.
'Why I confronted the man who raped me’
Dr Claire Chung, who has agreed to waive her anonymity in The Sunday Telegraph, was raped twice in the stinking stairwell of a multi-storey car park, and the crime caused her life to collapse “like a pack of cards”.
Dr Chung, a highly regarded GP with more than 20 years’ medical experience, lost her job, her marriage and her home after being raped by Stephen Allen Gale, who had been released from prison for another sexual offence just one day earlier.
But following the attack, which she described in chilling detail, Dr Chung negotiated with the authorities to allow a meeting with Gale in prison.
The meeting was organised as part of a “restorative justice” scheme, which brings criminals face to face with their victims.
Seeking ‘peace on this earth’: Detailing the need for Alabama to offer a formal state apology
Two local governments in southeast Alabama are expected to issue an apology for a 1944 rape of [Recy Taylor] a black woman by several white men, none of whom were ever prosecuted.
....Asked if the apology would also be on behalf of the state, Grimsley said, “We haven’t addressed that level yet.”
....“Clearly there should be an apology from the state here as well as the county,” said Professor Margaret Burnham, director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Program at Northeastern University School of Law. “Each failed to pursue the investigation aggressively and promptly, and more generally afforded utter impunity to white men who raped black women. Such a statement would not only honor Recy Taylor and her family for their courage and tenacity in seeking justice, but it would speak to scores of victims who similarly suffered in silence.”
Interview with Debbie, a rape victim of Robert Power
from the interview by Ines Aubert:
Ines Aubert was a pen pal of Robert Powers who had been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. She discovered over time that Robert had changed profoundly and that he wanted, among other things, to extend an apology to any of his victims who wished to receive that.
This took on some urgency at the end of 2010 as Robert neared the end of his life (he died of cancer on December 3). Ines contacted restorative justice consultant and RJOnline Correspondent Lisa Rea for assistance, but they were unable to find a way to reach out to Robert's victims. Lisa wrote about this in an earlier blog entry on RJOB.
Commenting on an article about Robert's death in a Florida newspaper, Ines wrote that he had wanted to apologize before his death but had been unable. Another reader -- one of Robert's victims -- replied to Ines that she had forgiven Robert. The two were able to connect, and Ines recently interviewed Debbie about her experience as a victim and the reasons for her forgiveness. The following is a short excerpt of an answer Debbie gave to Ines' question about how she felt when she learned that Robert had a pen pal.
Apologies help heal
Last week, we wrote of the bravery of the 16-year-old girl who was the victim of an apparent gang rape at a rave in Pitt Meadows last September.
The young woman has issued a statement thanking both those who supported her and those who spread lies and bullied her in the wake of the incident. Both, she said, had made her a stronger person.
The victim was forced to leave school after images and rumours about the attack began circulating. She is now taking most of her classes online.
Restorative justice from a survivor's perspective
by Penny Beerntsen
Note: this article originally appeared as a comment responding to a posting by Lisa Rea. We were concerned that many readers may have missed it and so are posting it as its own entry. We are grateful to Penny Beerntsen for her willingness to share her extraordinary story.
As a survivor of a violent crime, I am a firm believer in the power of restorative justice programs to transform both the victim and the offender. I learned about victim offender conferencing shortly after surviving a violent sexual assault and attempted murder. Although I was unable to meet with my offender, as he had not taken responsibility for his crime, I began participating in victim impact panels inside prisons. Although I was not speaking directly to my offender, I was telling my story to others who were incarcerated for violent crimes, including rape. Much of my healing took place inside maximum security prisons as a result of the dialogue I engaged in with these offenders. If someone had told me at the time of the crime that this would be the case, I would have told that individual they were crazy! I participated in these panels because I thought I had something to offer the offenders. I learned that the process, if properly conducted, is mutually beneficial.