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COSA/Restorative Reentry Program



"[T]he Reentry Program of the Montpelier Community Justice Center has a proven track record of helping people leave and stay out of prison. It has achieved significant savings--both in dollars and in human suffering." -- COSA Volunteer, letter to the editor, the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus


The Restorative Reentry Program promotes the principle of no more victims. By establishing and enforcing clear expectations of its participants for positive community behavior, restorative reentry interrupts the cycle of criminal offending.

Dave Brunell, a former Restorative Reentry
participant, at his job
in Hubbard Park.

      

How it Works

The Restorative Reentry Program works with people who have committed serious and violent offenses and who have been released from prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community.

Participants, or "core members," are screened to assure that they are appropriate candidates for this program. Before release, core members begin the process by working with their prison case worker, a probation officer and MCJC staff to create a plan for transition to community life.

COSAs are central to the Restorative Reentry Program. Trained COSA volunteers work in teams of three to five and meet regularly with the core member to support him or her in returning to the community and managing everyday living. This includes
  • following the supervision rules set by the Department of Corrections.
  • acting in ways that do not hurt others.
  • taking responsibility for one's actions by making amends for past offenses.
  • getting help for mental or emotional problems such as addictions, depression, or learning disabilities.
  • practicing productive new attitudes and behaviors.
  • arranging for transportation needs.
  • finding a job.
  • creating and living within a budget.
  • developing constructive solutions to problems.
  • planning for the future.
The core members are less likely to commit new crimes because they have people to talk with and support them to be accountable, and provide assistance with housing, employment, and transportation.

Volunteer Roles 
COSA volunteers attend training and learn skills to support individual and community safety. The volunteers commit to work with the core member for at least a year and participate in weekly one-hour COSA meetings. Volunteers may also occasionally check in by phone, drive the core member to appointments, and share in recreation.

Benefits of Restorative Reentry
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2007, more than 7 million people in the U.S. were incarcerated, on probation, or on parole--one in every 31 adults--with 2.2 million of them in prison or jail. Ninety-seven percent of prisoners currently in prison will someday be released, and approximately 600,000 are released every year. According to studies by the Pew Center on the States, 1 in 46 Vermont adults is under corrections supervision.

Because more people are in prison now, the numbers of people reentering communities from prison dwarf anything known before. More prisoners are returning home having spent longer time behind bars. * Many inmates are ill-prepared to enter community life and few have effective family and community supports in place to ease the reentry.

The COSA concept comes from a proven Canadian program started by the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario to provide "radical hospitality" to people, who in the absence of community support and accountability, were likely to re-offend, thereby creating safer communities. In addition, victims of crimes receive individual attention and support to match their needs.

Community Partners: This program helps coordinate the services participants receive from
  • The Department of Corrections
  • The Department of Labor
  • Local employers
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Agency of Human Services
To read the transcript of an interview by John Dillon of Vermont Public Radio with David Brunell, a former core member in the Restorative Reentry Program, click here.

How to request a COSA
To become a participant or core member in the Restorative Reentry Program, you must be recommended by your case worker at the correctional institution where you are housed, and you must have lived in Montpelier before incarceration or have family connections to Montpelier. Contact the case worker at the facility to find out more.