Restorative Reentry Programs

Restorative Reentry Programs promote 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. 

How it Works 
Restorative Reentry Programs work with people who have committed serious and violent offenses and who have been or are about to be released from prison to serve the remainder of their sentence in the community. The Restorative Reentry Program helps former prisoners successfully reenter their communities and become responsible citizens. Programs offered to participants include:
  • Circles of Support and Accountability (COSAs)
  • Transitional Housing with Reentry Navigation
  • Family Reintegration Conferences
  • Job Search and Parenting Education 
  • Restorative Justice Panels for Reentry
Circles of Support and Accountability (COSAs) are groups of three to four trained citizen volunteers who meet regularly with a "core member"--the person who is reintegrating into the community following a prison term--for at least the first year of his or her reentry. COSA volunteers provide emotional and practical support for the participant to help him or her become a productive self-supporting citizen, manage everyday challenges, and be accountable for safe and responsible living by 
  • Acting in ways that do not hurt others
  • Arranging for transportation needs
  • Creating and living within a budget
  • Developing constructive solutions to problems
  • Finding a job
  • Following the supervision rules set by the Department of Corrections
  • Getting help for mental or emotional problems such as addictions, depression, or learning disabilities
  • Planning for the future
  • Practicing productive new attitudes and behaviors
  • Taking responsibility for one's actions by making amends for past offenses
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 reoffend, thereby creating safer communities. In addition, victims of crimes receive individual attention and support to match their needs. 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.

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.

View Addressing Recidivism with Community and Drug Offenders Find Recovery Through Circles of Support and Accountability for discussions of COSAs in Vermont.

Transitional Housing with Reentry Navigation is provided to participants who need assistance finding a place to live but do not need the intensive support of a COSA. These participants have life skills necessary to find employment and a strong family or other support system and only need temporary help to find a suitable residence and short term rental assistance.

Family Reintegration Conferences are offered to people who seek a different, more positive relationship with family members and/or friends with whom they will have contact upon release from prison. Typically these conferences are conducted before a person is released and are designed for people who 
  • request permission to live with family or friends
  • have victimized family in the past
  • have family who have expressed concerns about the impending release.
Education Programs are ongoing and created as needed. Currently job search education and parenting education courses are available to Reentry participants. 

Restorative Justice Panels for Reentry are designed for Reentry program participants who
  • Have identifiable victims
  • Need to learn about or are ready to make amends for the harm s/he caused.     

Participants will meet with a volunteer community panel and victims who are interested in participating to deepen their understanding of the harm they caused and try to make amends. 

Dave Brunell Former Restorative Reentry Participant
"[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

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. 97 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, one 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. Community Justice Centers throughout Vermont have taken on the responsibility of engaging people who are reentering their communities and providing them with the support and accountability they need to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

Community Partners

This program helps coordinate the services participants receive from:
  • Agency of Human Services
  • Department of Corrections
  • Department of Labor
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Local employers
How To Request Restorative Reentry Services
To become a participant in a 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.