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Evaluability Assessments of the Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) Model, Cross-Site Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2013
94 pages
This report assesses the viability of an evaluation of the Circles of Support and Accountability model (COSA), which is a restorative justice based reentry program for high-risk sex offenders with little or no pro-social support.
The assessment of COSA across five sites concludes that there is no methodological or ethical reason why a randomized control trial of COSA could not be conducted in the United States; however, there are five potential obstacles that must be addressed in order to conduct a successful experimental evaluation of COSA: choice of outcomes; significant differences in program implementation; core member selection issues; sample size, site capacity, and low baselines of recidivism; and ownership of data. These potential obstacles can be addressed with a combination of realistic precision in program implementation, rigorous experimental control, and an increase in real-world resources. Three recommendations for action are proposed. First, conduct an experimental evaluation of the Vermont COSA program alone. Second, conduct an experimental evaluation that combines the Vermont COSA and COSA Fresno programs. A third possibility is to allow the fledgling sites to develop and conduct a multi-site evaluation of COSA in the future. Under the general COSA structure, participants commit to 1 year of participation in COSA meetings, through which they develop new social bonds with other members and staff, receive assistance in assessing the types of services they need, engage in recognition of their risky behaviors, and develop problem solving skills. To date, there has been no widely accepted evaluation of any COSA program. The current study assessed the viability of a rigorous evaluation of COSA based on site visits to five locations where COSA is operating in the United States: Fresno, CA; Denver, CO; Durham, NC; Lancaster, PA; and Burlington, VT. Extensive data tables, 51 references, and appended supplementary data and information

Date Published: July 1, 2013