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  • What is the Empathy Project?

    Empathy Project

    CCJC is currently working on a project designed to cultivate empathy, especially among people in prisons. CCJC’s Empathy Project consists developing and piloting programs that promote empathy through an examination of victim impact. These programs – to be run in prisons and in the community – aim to improve community safety by helping to integrate incarcerated people into the community while holding them accountable for the harm done by their crimes.

    Elements of CCJC’s Empathy Project

      • *”Enhancing Empathy for Victims and Families of Offenders”  With support from Public Safety Canada, in winter 2016 CCJC is overseeing a project to train prison volunteers and chaplains to run victim impact programs in federal prisons across Canada. This project will increase the capacity of victim impact programs in Canada, and will also help us learn more about how these programs affect participants, with a specific eye toward measuring participants’ interest in family reconciliation and their interest in restorative justice opportunities.
      • *‘Seeing Through the Bars’ panel discussion: In April, 2015, CCJC hosted a discussion on Victim Impact Programs in prisons featuring Kathryn Bliss (CCJC Education and Community Engagement Coordinator), Kate Johnson (Victim Impact Facilitator), Steve Sullivan (Victims Advocate), and Schuyler Playford (CCJC Victim Impact Project Manager). Click here to view a short teaser from the panel discussion. A video of the whole discussion is available here.
      • *Victim Impact Pilot Project: Click here to learn about CCJC’s 2014-15 pilot project with men in a federal prison.
      • *Victim Impact Program for Women: With support from the Women’s Inter-Church Council (WICC), CCJC will undertake a pilot project to run and evaluate a Victim Impact Program with federally sentenced women in 2016.
      • *Youth Victim Impact Program: In 2016, CCJC will continue to connect with stakeholders in order to develop a project that makes use of victim impact program tools to help at-risk youth build social and emotional skills.

    Why focus on empathy?

    Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition, emotions, and thoughts from their perspective. Empathy helps people overcome a self-centered worldview. A deficit of empathy is linked to aggression and is one of the core ingredients in dysfunctional relationships. The Empathy Project will work with incarcerated people through an educational program focusing on the impact their crime has had on others. This education in victim impact will improve deficits in empathy, with the goal of improving participants’ social outcomes upon release from prison. The empathy cultivated through courses inside of correctional facilities will be further developed, supported, and “lived” through a complementary program delivered by volunteers in communities. The community program will be offered to incarcerated people post-release and other people touched by the effects of crime.

    Ultimately, the Empathy Project aims to enhance community safety through building social connections and mutual understanding.

    Click here to view CCJC’s Reflection on Empathy video!

    Get Involved

    This project is being developed in partnership with chaplains, criminal justice organizations, and CCJC’s member denominations –as well as the Canadian public. CCJC continues to seek partners to enhance the effectiveness and reach of the Empathy Project in 2015. As an advisor, volunteer, or funder, you may have a role to play! We welcome your engagement in this undertaking. Please contact us us to learn more about how you can help the Empathy Project develop and grow.

  • Click here to learn more about the CoSA National Demonstration Project (English and French)

     ***Le texte français suit***

    Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA): An Effective Approach to Community Safety

    For Immediate Release:

    February 4, 2015

    Ottawa, Ontario Canada- The Church Council on Justice and Corrections (CCJC), in collaboration with CoSA sites across Canada, recently completed a five year demonstration project funded through the National Crime Prevention Centre of Public Safety Canada. The result of this project is a comprehensive evaluation report of CoSA in Canada.

    Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) is a community-based reintegration program, grounded in restorative justice principles, that holds sex offender’s accountable for the harm they have caused while assisting with their task of re-entry into communities at the end of their sentences.

    This evaluation is a valuable addition to the growing body of international research on CoSA programs.  This report, along with similar research, indicates that CoSA is a critical tool in the re-integration for high-risk, high needs sexual offenders in Canada and plays an essential role in reducing sexual victimization and keeping communities safe.

    This evaluation report is the first of its kind for CoSA in Canada in that it provides an in-depth look at the process dynamics of CoSAs through site case studies.  The report addresses the question of what goes on in a circle of support and accountability, something that has not previously been examined.  It also brings into question the sustainability of CoSA in Canada, given imminent federal funding cuts to many sites on March 31, 2015.

    A close look at the inner workings of CoSA reveals a program where dedicated staff and volunteers strive to provide vital integration support to individuals being released from federal correctional facilities into communities across Canada.  Most importantly, this report demonstrates how CoSA programs provide a necessary compliment to formalized support structures through a focus on building supportive relationships between recently released offenders, staff, and circle volunteers who understand what’s at stake in holding offenders accountable to the community.

    Click here to read the full report.

    End Release


    Une approche efficace pour la sécurité de la communauté

    Le 4 février 2015

    Ottawa, Ontario Canada- Le Conseil des Églises en Justice et Criminologie (CEJC), en collaboration avec différents sites CSR à travers le Canada, a récemment terminé un projet expérimental de cinq ans, subventionné par le Centre National de Prévention du Crime qui dépend de la Sécurité publique du Canada. Le résultat de ce projet est un rapport d’évaluation complet des CSRs au Canada.

    Les Cercles de Soutien et de Responsabilité (CSR) est un programme de réintegration dans la communauté fondée sur les principes de la justice réparatrice. Il tient les contrevenants sexuels responsables du tort causé, tandis qu’il les accompagne dans leur effort de réintégration dans la communauté à la fin de leur peine d’emprisonnement.

    Cette évaluation constitue un ajout précieux à l’ensemble des recherches internationales -qui ne cessent de grossir- sur les programmes des CSRs. Ce rapport, ainsi que d’autres recherches similaires, indiquent que les CSRs sont des outils essentiels pour la réintegration des contrevenants sexuels à haut risque et avec des besoins importants, au Canada, et jouent un rôle majeur dans la réduction du nombre de victimes et le maintien de la sécurité de la communauté.

    Ce rapport d’évaluation est le premier du genre pour les CSRs du Canada, dans la mesure où il permet un regard approfondi sur les dynamiques développées dans les CSRs, grâce aux études de cas dans les différents sites observés. Le rapport aborde la question de ce qui se passe dans un cercle de soutien et de responsabilité, ce qui n’avait pas été examiné auparavant. Il met aussi en question la durabilité des CSR au Canada, étant données les coupures budgétaires fédérales, effectif le 31 Mars 2015, qui vont affecter de nombreux sites.

    Une observation fine des fonctionnements internes met en lumière un programme où un personnel dévoué accompagné de bénévoles s’efforce d’offrir un soutien vital à la réintegration à des individus libérés des institutions pénitentiaires fédérales et renvoyés à la communauté dans tout le Canada. Plus important encore, ce rapport montre comment le programme des CSRs apporte un complément nécessaire aux structures de soutien formelles, en mettant l’accent sur la construction de relations de solidarité entre des contrevenants récemment libérés, le personnel et les bénévoles des Cercles qui comprennent ce qui est en jeu, lorsque l’on tient les contrevenants pour responsables envers la communauté.

    Cliquez ici pour lire la rapport complet.


Get Involved


As we reflect in these coming days upon the many blessings in our lives, may we consider those who have been impacted by the justice system - both victims and offenders. Many families are impacted by justice-involvement and this time of year can be hard for those who cannot be with their loved ones as a result.

CCJC puts justice that heals at the forefront of our mission and our vision to create positive change through restorative models of justice. Currently our work is focused on The Empathy Project, a victim-impact and empathy skills training program for incarcerated individuals.

Presently CCJC is developing a new curriculum for use in the Empathy Project. Two versions of the curriculum are in the process of being created. These curricula will be streamed to the specific needs of both men and women and will be created with 100% Canadian content as well as with a restorative justice context in mind. If this work interests you, we would be so grateful for your support.

As the season of giving is upon us, this Christmas, consider sharing empathy with someone in need by supporting The Empathy Project. We thank you for opening your hearts to this work.



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