This program was designed to hold high risk sexual offenders accountable for their actions and help them gain stability following their incarceration. A Circle consists of a Core Member (the offender), five to seven professionally trained volunteers who provide the support and accountability, and professional service providers. Volunteers maintain daily contact by phone and weekly in-person meetings.
The first Circle Member in Canada, where this program was started by the Mennonite Central Committee, was successful in never re-offending for the 15 years prior to his death, despite being told by his psychologist that he had a 100% chance of re-offending. Evidenced based research shows that when offenders participate in the Circles, recidivism is reduced by 70%. Core values: “No more victims – No Human is Disposable.”
In 2008, two community activists, Jim Kalish and Keith Regehr, began discussions to establish a Circles of Support and Accountability Program in Lancaster County. After months of deliberation, the Board approved creation of a program in December 2009 and Lance Couturier, PhD (recently retired as Chief of Psychological Services with the PA Dept. of Correction, where he directed the sex offender treatment program) was asked to join the Board to oversee it.
In March 2010, positive reinforcement for the Circles Program came when Jim secured funds from the Lancaster Friends Meeting and Keith Regehr became Program Manager on a part-time basis. In 2011, the John Frederick Steinman, James Hale Steinman and United Service Foundation contributed followed by the Lancaster County Community Foundation in 2012. Working closely with Lancaster County Probation and Parole Offices, the first former offender was admitted in October 2011.
From 2011 to 2015, the program successfully served the community and five former offenders, each of which has been free of sexual or violent offenses for an average of 1.7 years. A circle of dedicated volunteers surrounded each core member while they've gained stability and accountability in the community. Due to a lack of sustaining funding since 2014, the program completed its service to the final four Core Members in December 2015.
For a brochure describing Circles of Support and Accountability, click here.