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Phillip Smith Inquiry Supports CoSA

Phillip John Smith Inquiry Supports Circle of Support and Accountability (CoSA) Programme

2 October 2015

The Government Inquiry into Phillip John Smith has come out in support of the Circle of Support and Accountability (CoSA) Programme, and is concerned that the programme was ‘not effectively supported, resourced, or monitored’ by the Department of Corrections. There was no dedicated funding for the programme, and its survival relied on support from the principal psychologist at Te Piriti, (often after hours), and philanthropic funding. The Inquiry came to the view that the idea had merit, and the Department of Corrections should consider how to give it best effect.

Justspeak spokesperson Hannah Gabriel welcomed the recommendation. “The Robson Hanan Trust, under which we operate, is one of those organisations that have supported the initiative, through funding from a private trust. Now that the inquiry has urged more departmental support for the programme, we look forward to its ongoing development.”

The report notes that the CoSA concept was introduced at Paremoremo in 2009. But it had operated successfully in the United Kingdom and Canada. The idea was to provide for prisoners a circle of people who would support them once they were released into the community. The CoSA would also try to keep the prisoner accountable for his or her actions.

It goes on to explain, “Ideally, when a prisoner is released into the community, support networks are in place. Obvious supports can be found in accommodation, employment and family. However, many prisoners, as they approach parole eligibility or release, have no such supports. Without such supports, a prisoner’s release on parole is likely to be delayed. The risks of a prisoner re-entering the community after a long period of incarceration with no accommodation, no family support and no employment prospects are considerable. Child sex offenders, such as those being treated in Te Piriti, are a class of prisoner conspicuously lacking in support. Many serve lengthy sentences (some preventive detention). The nature of offending frequently ruptures family support networks. The prospect of further child sex offending is an obvious barrier in the way of community support.”

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“A CoSA is a group consisting of a prisoner with complex reintegrative needs serving an indeterminate sentence and typically five to seven volunteers from the community who are to support the prisoner on release and aim to keep him accountable for his actions. Potential CoSA members will meet with the prisoner before his release to establish the relationship of support and accountability. CoSAs are supervised by therapeutic staff and members of community sector agencies contracted by Corrections.”

“Justspeak says that increased government resourcing, support and monitoring will mean that the Parole Board will now actively consider CoSA as a valuable reintegrative tool for sex offenders, and inquire of Corrections, as to its suitability for those cases that come before it.”


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