The Canadian government is giving millions of dollars to a treatment program that rehabilitates convicted pedophiles.
The Ministry of Public Safety announced Friday that it is giving $7.48 million to the Circle of Support and Accountability (CoSA) National Capacity Project.
CoSa provides community "circles"—weekly support groups—to people who have been convicted of sex crimes in an effort to prevent them from re-offending. This money will go to 14 sites across the country.
While sex crimes against children are widely viewed as one the most egregious types of offences, David Byrne, chair of CoSA's board of directors told VICE that getting funding for the program hasn't been easy. Some Canadians would "rather not a dime get spent" on helping pedophiles.
But he said studies show programs like CoSA reduce the likelihood of reoffending by 70 to 90 percent. Sex offender recidivism rates are difficult to nail down (for example, people who commit incest crimes are less likely to re-offend than child molesters victimizing boys) but studies say about 15 percent will reoffend within five to seven years.
"Evidence based criminal justice policy is a priority if we are serious about reducing victimization," Byrne said, noting "most sex offenders will be released into the community at the end of their sentence regardless of how we might feel about their presence."
Byrne said because of how highly stigmatized these individuals are, their circles often become a huge source of support. Without programs like CoSA, he said sex offenders who have served their time need only check in once a year with police as part of being on the sex offender registry.
Until recently, Byrne said he wasn't able to secure federal funding for CoSa and was told it "did not line up with the established priorities of various branches of government." Without those resources, CoSA sites would have shut down.
He said the longer someone remains offense-free in a community, the less likely they are to re-offend.