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An Outcome Evaluation of Minnesota Circles of Support and Accountability (MnCoSA)

May 10, 2013

from the study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections:

....The use of the COSA model with high-risk sex offenders began in a small Mennonite community in Canada in the early 1990s. Grounded in the tenets of the restorative justice philosophy, the COSA model attempts to help sex offenders successfully reenter http://www.doc.state.mn.us/publications/documents/9-12MnCOSAResearchinBrief.pdfthe community and, thus, increase public safety, by providing them with social support as they try to meet their employment, housing, treatment, and other social needs. Each COSA consists of anywhere between four and six community volunteers, one of whom is a primary volunteer, who meet with the offender on a regular basis. The results from several evaluations of the Canadian COSA model suggest it significantly reduces sex offender recidivism....

The MnCoSA evaluation used a randomized controlled trial to determine whether it had an impact on recidivism. Prior to randomly assigning eligible offenders to either the experimental (MnCoSA) or control groups, MnCoSA staff recruited volunteers from the community to form a Circle around a soon-to-be released Level 2 sex offender who was returning to Hennepin, Ramsey, Dodge, Fillmore, or Olmsted counties. During the 2008-2011 period, 31 sex offenders participated in MnCoSA and were released from prison. Recidivism outcomes for these offenders were compared to those of the 31 sex offenders in the control group.

The MnCoSA evaluation also assessed whether the program is cost effective by comparing program operating costs with the costs resulting from recidivism. To determine whether MnCoSA has produced a benefit resulting from reduced recidivism, the study compared the number of offenses committed by offenders in the MnCoSA and control groups. The costs of these offenses were then monetized based on cost of crime estimates developed through prior research....

The data in Figure 1 show that MnCoSA participants had lower recidivism rates than the offenders in the control group. For example, 39 percent of the MnCoSA participants had been rearrested for a new offense by the end of December 2011 compared with 65 percent of the control group offenders. The results also show that 26 percent of the MnCoSA participants were reconvicted for a new offense compared to 45 percent in the control group. In addition, 10 percent of the MnCoSA participants were reincarcerated for a new criminal offense compared to 26 percent of the control group offenders. Further, compared to the offenders in the control group, who had a technical violation revocation rate of 68 percent, MnCoSA participants had a rate of 48 percent. Lastly, 48 percent of MnCoSA offenders returned to prison for a new offense and/or a technical violation versus 61 percent of those in the control group....

Because MnCoSA relies heavily on volunteers, the costs to operate the program are confined mainly to project staff salaries and volunteer training and recruitment efforts. As shown in Table 1, it cost nearly $450,000 to operate MnCoSA from 2008-2011. The results also show, however, that the benefits resulting from reduced recidivism amounted to a little more than $800,000. More specifically, MnCoSA participants were rearrested for 33 fewer offenses than the control group and spent about 100 fewer days in prison following their release.

After subtracting the program operating costs from the recidivism costs avoided, the resultsin Table 1 show that MnCoSA has, within its first four years of operation, produced an estimated benefit of $363,211, which amounts to $11,716 per participant. The cost-benefit ratio indicates that for every dollar spent on MnCoSA, the State of Minnesota has seen an estimated benefit of $1.82, which results in an 82 percent return on investment.

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