New CJRC research on Public views about Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA)

Crime and Justice Research Centre member Dr Kelly Richards has recently published a study with Associate Professor Kieran McCartan (University of the West of England) on public views about Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA). COSA are an innovative measure designed to reintegrate child sex offenders into the community following a period of incarceration, and aim to reduce offenders’ risk of reoffending. COSA emerged in Canada in the 1990s and are well-established in North America and Europe. While the effectiveness of COSA has been researched previously, little has been documented about what the public think about this criminal justice program.

Dr Richards’ research used comments posted to social media platforms following the announcement of Australia’s first COSA program to examine public opinion. The study, to be published in Deviant Behavior (available for free download here http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/czqTkExqcyXIz35h4i96/full), considered the reasons that members of the community gave for either supporting or opposing the COSA program. Based on this, it makes recommendations of what should be communicated to the public about COSA, as well as who might best deliver such information, and how it might most effectively be delivered.

The research builds on Dr Richards’ Churchill Fellowship, which she undertook in 2010, to study COSA in Canada, the USA and the UK (see https://www.churchilltrust.com.au/media/fellows/Richards_Kelly_2010.pdf). Dr Richards, Associate Professor McCartan, and CJRC researcher Dr Jodi Death have recently commenced a project on sex offender reintegration in Australia, funded by the Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (www.anrows.org.au).

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