When Phil gets out of prison in Forgiven/Forgotten, people aren’t sure how to respond. Is it safe to have him at church? To invite him over for dinner? To have your kids play at his house?
Back in 1994, a Mennonite Church was asking these same questions when a released sex offender moved into their neighbourhood. While we’re not sure exactly how the action played out, we do know that the Pastor recruited members of his church community to form a support group for the man. He met weekly with his group for 14 years before he died.
He never re-offended.
Since that time, thousands of Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) have been formed through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC)’s program to assist and support released offenders in their task of re-integrating with the community, and leading responsible, productive and accountable lives.
These circles have resulted in an 83% reduction in recidivism (re-offending) for sexual offences. A 73% reduction in recidivism for all types of violent offenses, and a 71% overall reduction of in all types of recidivism in comparison to matched groups of offenders who did not have a CoSA.
Since its beginning in 1920, MCC has worked to follow Jesus’ call to reach out to those who are hungry, thirsty, ill, or in prison, and to welcome strangers.
It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
MCC is grateful to partner with Theatre of the Beat as they bring Forgiven/Forgotten to churches in our region this Restorative Justice Week, November 20 to 27, 2016. As you watch, we invite you to think about the Phil’s in your community and to consider how you might respond.