Introduction

Five8 is an initiative of PASS (Prisoner Aftercare Support Services) and is intended to give a prisoner support as he or she anticipates release.

A circle of 4-6 trained volunteers will build a relationship with a prisoner that has submitted to a formal contract of agreement between both parties. The “Core Member” will remain accountable to the circle of “Five8’s” for as long as the contract is in place. The contract is based around acceptable boundaries and objectives that are designed to assist the Core Member to make better life impacting decisions and live a consistent and meaningful life that avoids a return to prison. These relationships often extend for years and many ex-offenders will volunteer their time in helping others to break the cycle of recidivism once they have attained stability.

Background

Five8 (which means ‘my mate’ in prison rhyming slang) was founded in 2009 out of the need to support a long-term prisoner who had virtually no contact with the outside world.  A group of six volunteers from Footscray Church of Christ (Melbourne) committed to visit the prisoner, receive phone calls, write letters, provide practical support such as assistance with his education, and continue to help him after his release.

Five8 is based on a proven model of support and accountability for ex-prisoners. As well
as helping to re-establish the ex-prisoner with employment and accommodation, Five8 is
about giving a new circle of support, accountability, friendship and above all, a tangible
means of avoiding re-offending and re-incarceration.


Five8 Model

Five8 is modelled on Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA), an evidence-based model that constitutes best practice in community re-entry programs. In the mid 1990’s in response to negative publicity surrounding the release of two high risk sex-offenders, a Canadian Mennonite Minister organised two groups of seven volunteers around each ex-prisoner. Members of the Circles (micro-communities) maintained daily contact with the ex-offenders and members of each Circle came together at a weekly meeting where issues relating to the support and also accountability of the ex-offender were discussed. This dynamic and at times confronting Circle process resulted in a two-fold outcome: Firstly, the ex-offenders’ inappropriate thinking was corrected; secondly, the ex-offender became deeply established in pro-social relationships. Deemed 100% likely to re-offend before their involvement with Circles, until their deaths over ten years later neither person re-offended.  As a result of COSA’s success it is the only non-corrections program to be funded by Corrections Canada, and the model has been replicated elsewhere around the world.

Five8 is also committed to the principles of Restorative Justice, which seriously considers the needs and concerns of the victims and community as well as those of the offender.  The safety of the community and potential victims is imperative if there is to be restoration in the community. A restoration of peace must be realised for true community safety to be enhanced.  This is a motivating factor for Five8.