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Evaluability Assessments of the Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) Model, Site Report: Vermont COSA

NCJ Number
Ian A. Elliott, Ph.D.; Gary Zajac, Ph.D.; Courtney A. Meyer, M.A.
Date Published
July 2013
30 pages
This study assessed the readiness for a rigorous evaluation of Vermont's Circles of Support and Accountability, a restorative justice-based community reentry program for high-risk sex offenders with little or no pro-social community support.
Vermont's COSA ("VT COSA") was part of a five-site study of COSA programs in the United States that assessed their readiness for a rigorous evaluation. Overall, although VT COSA has some methodological obstacles to a rigorous evaluation, they can be resolved, so VT COSA is ready to contribute to rigorous experimental evaluation, either singly or as part of a multi-site evaluation of the effectiveness of COSA in the United States. This assessment clarified program intent, explored program reality, examined program data capacity, analyzed program fidelity, and proposed potential evaluation designs for future evaluation. Although VT COSA was awarded a relatively high fidelity score of 86 percent, it deviated from the intended model in a number of ways. First, it is managed centrally by the Vermont Department of Corrections, which has implications for COSA activity. Second, selected "core members" (released sex offenders) had not completed their sentences, as they were under a combination of COSA and formal parole supervision. Third, there was some flexibility in the criteria for selecting core members. On the other hand, the quality of data and data systems at VT COSA were excellent. The only obstacle to the evaluation of VT COSA may be the potential sample size available. 2 figures and 16 references