People convicted of sexual offences can be at risk of reoffending when they are released from prison back into the community. However, little has been documented about programs designed to support offenders to reintegrate and to reduce the risk of reoffence. In addition, the needs and views of victim/survivors of sexual violence about the reintegration of people who have sexually offended have not previously been documented.
To contribute towards understanding this problem, Associate Professor Kelly Richards and Dr Jodi Death (School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology) and Professor Kieran McCartan (Department of Health and Social Sciences, University of the West of England) recently undertook research on two community-based approaches to reintegrating people who have been incarcerated for sexual offending. The team documented the characteristics of Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) in Adelaide and the Cultural Mentoring Program (CMP) in Townsville. CoSA who are groups of trained volunteers who support people convicted of sexual offending as they leave prison and re-join the community, with the aim of preventing sexual reoffending. CoSA were shown to help participants build new identities as non-offenders, while holding participants accountable. The CMP works with released Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander men convicted of sexual offending, and seeks to connect them with traditional cultural practice and knowledge. The research found that the program helped the men to build strong and positive non-offending cultural identities with a focus on connections with family, culture and Country.
The research team also conducted a study into victim/survivors’ views about the reintegration of people who have sexually offended. While victim/survivors’ views were diverse, in the main they supported programs such as CoSA, particularly on the grounds that such an approach could prevent future offending.
The authors have presented their research to a number of audiences, including at the Australian National University, and at a roundtable of offender and victim/survivor support organisations in Queensland.
Publications from the research:
Research to Policy and Practice Report:
Fact sheet on CoSA: