Serving the Fox Valley, Green Bay, Oshkosh and surrounding communities.
A Program of Goodwill NCW

Part 1 – Introduction

Introduction/Orientation to Circles of Support
Welcome! We are happy you are a new member of the Circles family. After your orientation, you should have gained a sense of what we do, what our principles are, what we believe in, and how we work.

You can see by our values, our primary purpose is building relationships and supporting/guiding our participants. Although we have some concrete items we can get to our active participants; it’s not about “stuff.”

The guidelines on boundaries are especially important and allow us to maintain a positive relationship with our participants and the Department of Corrections. Boundary violations will indicate a poor fit for our program.

The Volunteer Policy is something you signed during your Orientation and it’s VERY important to us to maintain the integrity of our program. Please make sure you have read it carefully and asked any questions you have.

Mission Statement: “People helping people transition from incarceration to the community.”

Vision Statement: “Promote safer communities through successful transition.”

Values: Community Circles of Support will:

  • Foster an environment of acceptance for the individual’s return to the community
  • Promote positive social interaction and responsibility
  • Focus on the future rather than the past
  • Focus on the individual’s strengths and struggles
  • Plan for success
  • Support and recognize individual accomplishments
  • Mobilize community resources

History:  In 2006, professional and community representatives from Winnebago County formed the Corrections Concerns Committee. The committee researched the problem of recidivism and concluded that the Circles model used by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections had the best chance for success. The first northeastern Wisconsin Circles program began in 2006 in Oshkosh, quickly joined by groups in the Fox Valley and Green Bay. In 2008, CCOS hired a program leader and became a program of Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin (NCW). Later, Fond du Lac and Manitowoc became part of our program for several years as well. Our current contract is for our original three communities. Today, about 10 Circles programs operate regionally, with about 60 active volunteers.

Outcomes: Circles strives to create safer communities for all through the successful transition of prisoners reentering the community. Our goals are to decrease recidivism and to increase participant self-sufficiency. Statewide, about 50% of prisoners released are returned to prison within three years. Locally, more than 98% of Circles participants have remained crime-free while participating in Circles.

Ways to get involved and help the Circles of Support: Volunteer: Our volunteers come from the community and represent many different fields, abilities, talents, ages, and backgrounds. Specialized training is provided, but the core of the interaction is heartfelt feedback and support to our participants. Volunteers listen, encourage positive behaviors, and link the participants to the area’s resources. We serve only a fraction of reentering offenders. Our vision is to increase our numbers of volunteers and Circle meetings so we can serve more of the eligible population of reentering offenders.

“It helps to know I have someone to talk with; to deal with the problems I have as an ex-offender getting my life back.” — Participant
“Our program is strength-based. We try to build on the positive. Good habits build good habits.” — Volunteer

Connections: Employment and housing continue to be the two biggest barriers to successful prisoner reentry. Unemployment and under-employment can be discouraging and affect housing opportunities. Each contact we make to connect a participant with employment is one more barrier we have broken — one more person able to support himself or herself in making positive choices.

Although we have made progress in matching participants with jobs through Goodwill and other generous partners, the demand far outweighs the need. Are you — or do you know — a business owner, willing to work with Circles of Support to hire participants? Do you know of affordable housing for a participant?

Financial Gifts: Since the Circles have become a program of Goodwill NCW, Circles has increased community awareness of prisoner reentry issues and recruited a significant number of volunteers, enabling us to serve more participants and communities. We strive to spend our budgeted dollars efficiently and effectively to serve our participants while at the same time decrease the amount of tax dollars spent on incarceration. We are funded by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and will happily accept monetary donations to cover expenses outside of our budget.

If you know of a way you are able to support Circle of Support, please contact:
Anne Strauch, Regional Director 920-968-6832 [email protected]

HOW GOODWILL CAME TO BE Goodwill was founded in 1902 in Boston by Rev. Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister and early social innovator. Helms collected used household goods and clothing in wealthier areas of the city, then trained and hired those who were poor to mend and repair the used goods. The goods were then resold or were given to the people who repaired them. The system worked, and the Goodwill philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” was born.

Dr. Helms’ vision set an early course for what today has become a $5 billion nonprofit organization.  Helms described Goodwill Industries as an “industrial program as well as a social service enterprise … a provider of employment, training and rehabilitation for people of limited employability, and a source of temporary assistance for individuals whose resources were depleted.”

Even with a laudable history and record of accomplishment, Goodwill won’t be satisfied when so many people still need our services. Through our 21st Century Initiative, we aim to improve the economic self-sufficiency of 20 million people and their families by 2020. Times have changed, but Helms’ vision remains constant. “We have courage and are unafraid. With the prayerful cooperation of millions of our bag contributors and of our workers, we will press on till the curse of poverty and exploitation is banished from mankind.”

 The 164 regional Goodwills are independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit human services organizations, but are connected by Goodwill Industries International (GII). GII is based in Rockford, Maryland, and is the center that assigns territories, facilitates Goodwills working together and oversees the Goodwill brand.

Goodwill NCW is a member of GII and serves 35 counties across north central Wisconsin, and operates 27 retail store and training centers, from Manitowoc to La Crosse, and as far north as Rice Lake and Rhinelander.



Circles of Support is volunteer-based program of people helping people transition from incarceration to the community. A reentry support program. A community safety program.


Wisconsin stats:

  • Adult inmate population                    21,844
  • Community Supervision population   68,000+
  • Inmates released annually                 12,000+

The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world (716 per 100,000).

The annual cost to house one person in prison is $32,000-38,000. As a person ages, the cost rises, and between 55-65% of offenders return to prison.

The cost for a revocation and dependent costs (government money available to dependents of an inmate) can push the cost of recidivism to more than $81,000.

Corrections is a $68 billion tax burden right now. There is a need to focus on re-entry and start balancing justice and punishment with rehabilitation and reentry programs.

Top reasons identified for offending

  1. Anti-social thinking
  2. Anti-social companions
  3. Anti-social personality
  4. Family and/or marital conflicts

An inmate about to be released often will fantasize about what life will be like on the “outside.” They will be free to start a better life, free to get a job, earn some money, get a place, rebuild the family, or maybe even take a vacation!

When released, they are often hit with reality: There is probably no place to live and it’s very difficult to get a job because of their record. They have no ID and no way to get to a job anyway.

They need their prescriptions filled, but how? So they may try to do without. When things look bleak, it might be tempting to turn to old buddies, old habits, old patterns.


  • Must be on STATE supervision
  • Must take accountability for actions and acknowledge the hurt they’ve caused others
  • Must not pose a safety threat to self or others in the Circle
  • Must be ready to work towards success


  • Pro-social support
  • Individual and group support
  • Identifying and breaking down barriers to success
  • Resource linkage
  • Temporary job slots with Goodwill
  • Transportation, determined by need


  • Funding for ID or bus passes
  • Medication
  • GW vouchers for start-up clothing
  • Trac phone and minutes

V = Volunteer
P = Participant

What is Citizenship?

Activity Worksheet

      1. what is citizenship?


      1. What are the attributes of good citizenship?


      1. How is citizenship learned? Who teaches us citizenship?


    1. Why is citizenship important?


“Knowing where you end and the other person begins”

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What do you mean by keeping healthy boundaries?
A: When you first hear the term “boundaries,” you might think it means to be cold, unloving and uninvolved with those with whom we work. Actually, it’s the opposite. Over-involvement on an emotional level causes volunteers to lose objectivity. They cannot exercise proper judgment in their dealings with those with whom they are seeking to help. Favoritism might happen and volunteers can end up feeling rejected by participants when they don’t respond favorably to attempts to help them.

Volunteers with unhealthy boundaries have an improper sense of responsibility for the actions and decisions of the participants. Everyone is accountable and responsible for their own actions regardless of what we may do or not do.

A volunteer’s unresolved issues will inevitably hinder their ability to work effectively with participants.

Q: How much about myself should I share with the participants?
A: It is possible to strike a balance between over-involvement and being so objective that those we work with never see our “human” side. It is important to remember that you volunteer in Circles of Support to help the participant, not the other way around. Share cautiously only when you think your disclosure may help the participant.

Q: What about confidentiality?
A: Confidentiality is important. As volunteers, we’re not to identify participants outside of the Circles or speak of their situations casually. However, within Circles and the Department of Corrections, we keep no secrets. We are transparent. We notify authorities if danger is present.

While the participant may seem to connect with a volunteer, our work with them is to be a team approach. It should be clearly understood by all that what is shared with a volunteer may also be shared with the other volunteers and if necessary, their agent. We benefit from a team approach. This also prevents participants from forming an exclusive relationship with a volunteer who is “the only one I can talk to.” NEVER promise to keep a secret.

Q: How do I set clear boundaries?
A: Part of boundary-setting with participants is completed when they sign the Program Guidelines. Volunteers must adhere to these guidelines while a part of Circles. Setting limits on your participation in Circles is an important part of establishing boundaries. Be clear about what you are comfortable with regarding sharing your phone number, giving rides, etc. It is OK to say “no.” Never lend money to, or become involved in a personal relationship, with a participant.


Stages of Change


  • Stage of Resistance
  • May occur at any time, even after change in one area has occurred.
  • Task is to establish or affirm relationship
  • Let the participant talk
  • Elicit the participant’s perception of their life
  • Listen for the locus of the discrepancy in their life.


  • Discrepancy takes hold
  • Stage of discomfort
  • Encourage focus on discrepancy
  • Accurate empathy
  • Move to planning for change


  • Essential stage of change
  • Ready for change, but no helping strategies in place
  • Discuss multiple options for realistic strategies to accomplish goals
  • Conduct in an atmosphere of empathy and collaboration with the participant
  • Deciding a move to change

Action                                                    Maintenance

  • Busy and demanding period
  • Stage of experimenting
  • Behavior oriented
  • Develop resiliency
  • Take small steps


  • Sustaining behavior changes
  • Be aware of self
  • Emotion-oriented
  • Resolve emotions
  • Make amends
  • Move to recovery



  • Participant defines their perspective on relapse
  • Circle offers their perspective on relapse
  • Normalize relapse—recovery is a process, not an event


Positive Redefinitions

  • He’s being very “manicky” today.
  • He has a lot of energy today.


  • She has no motivation to change.
  • She copes and accepts her life as it is.


  • He manipulates the system.
  • He utilizes resources that are available to him.


  • She refuses to stay on task.
  • She enjoys variety and multi-tasking.


  • He’s always so pushy.
  • He is persistent and determined.


  • She must enjoy being abused.
  • She has made trade-offs to keep her family together.


  • His family is so dysfunctional.
  • He and his family have survived many challenges.


  • I can see why he has no friends; he’s so annoying.
  • He’s true to himself no matter what other’s think. He isn’t afraid of being alone.


  • She never finishes anything.
  • She is creative and has many projects going at once.


  • He is just a lazy bum who won’t get a job.
  • He is laid back and makes do with very little.

Responding to Challenging Behaviors

The Rationalizing Participant

The Rationalizing Participant believes s/he is always right. Skills to use:

  • Reflective listening
  • No debating or arguing
  • No education
  • Acceptance of their perspective of “positives”

The Reluctant Participant

The Reluctant Participant is afraid to change. Skills to use:

  • Respectful listening
  • Empathic response for “where they come from”

The Rebellious Participant

The Rebellious Participant has a strong need to control. Skills to use:

  • Empathic response to their need to control
  • Respect their autonomy

The Resigned Participant

The Resigned Participant has no optimism for change. Skills to use:

  • Respect for lessons learned from the past
  • Affirmation of Strengths
  • Explore past barriers to change
  • Explore what has worked and what hasn’t
  • Relapse is a process of recovery

 Volunteer Traps

  • Letting the process be a power trip
  • Not honoring commitments
  • Taking ownership of the participants’ problems
  • Not re-evaluating expectations
  • Not meeting the participant where they are at in life

Questions to ask

  • What is the issue?
  • What is your concern?
  • What do you want to happen?
  • What’s been going on so far?
  • Who are you dealing with?
  • What have you tried so far?
  • What have been the results so far?
  • What barriers are you facing?
  • How will you go about it?
  • What might get in your way?
  • What and when is the next step?
  • If you were in the other person’s shoes, what would you do? How would you feel?
  • Would you like a suggestion?

Phrases to Avoid

  • I know best
  • You are wrong
  • Let me handle this for you
  • You need me

Phrases Not to Avoid

  • I can help
  • I don’t know
  • I’ll find out
  • Help me understand

Motivational Interviewing

Communication intentionally designed to:

  • resolve resistance and ambivalence towards positive change
  • elicit the person’s own motivation for change
  • respect the person’s own values and beliefs

The Spirit of Motivational Interviewing believes:

  • collaboration is preferable to coercion or confrontation
  • the motivation for change is the product of an interaction between people — an interpersonal process
  • actual change is the responsibility of the participant — they always have self-determination.

Tools of Motivational Interviewing include:

  • expect resistance — resistance is normal — it does not mean we condone or approve of their negative behaviors.
  • respectful listening
  • using accurate empathy
  • developing discrepancy
  • supporting self-sufficiency

Discrepancy is the perceived conflict between a person’s behavior and their values

Three “musts” of Motivational Interviewing:

  • Ask vs. Tell
  • Listen vs. Talk
  • Inform with Respect

Motivational Interviewing DOES NOT:

  • argue that the person has a problem and needs to change
  • offer direct advice or prescribe solutions to the problem without the person’s permission or without actively encouraging the person to make his or her own choices
  • use an authoritative/expert stance leaving the client in a passive role
  • do most of the talking
  • impose a diagnostic label
  • behave in a punitive or coercive manner


The volunteer members of CCOS will maintain open communication, safe boundaries, straightforwardness, and credibility among participants, members, the DOC, and within the community. Transparency is key!

  • Volunteers will attend their chosen Circle meetings as able and inform the Circle facilitator if unable to attend.


  • No one may attend Circle meetings until they are Orientated as a Volunteer. Circles Director will notify the Circle leader if a special guest has been approved.


  • Please silence your cell phones during volunteer hours.


  • Volunteers will participate in the Circles by offering non-judgmental support and encouragement, assisting in removing barriers to success, listening with empathy, and encouraging accountability and pro-social behavior.


  • Volunteers shall refer to Circles of Support as “a program of Goodwill Industries” during public communication.


  • Volunteers will notify the proper authorities if a participant is involved with a criminal event or jeopardizes their own safety or the safety of others.


  • Volunteers and participants are to avoid talking about what is discussed during Circles meetings with non-participants.


  • If at any time a volunteer feels uncomfortable or threatened or notices an inappropriate situation, they will notify an authority appropriate to the level of risk (Circle facilitator, Supervising agent, Circles Director, or police).


  • Volunteers or participants are not to interfere with or confront each other outside of the Circle activities under any circumstances.


  • Volunteers will meet with participants only within the context of Circles of Support group or individual meetings set up in advance and with prior knowledge of other Circles volunteers.


  • Any issues or concerns regarding questionable interaction between a volunteer and participant outside the circle will be addressed with the Circle facilitator and if necessary, the program director.


  • Volunteers will refrain from any appearance of interfering with the supervising agent’s duty to enforce laws/rules and protect the public.


  • Volunteers and participants are to maintain appropriate program fraternization boundaries, shall not give or exchange any article or gift, and shall not meet at any event or activity that is not expressly approved by the Circle membership.


  • In the event a conflict of interest arises between a volunteer and a participant, the Faciliator and the Program Director will be contacted to decide what steps, if any, are needed.


  • Volunteers and Participants will remain focused on the task of supporting and assisting the Participants’ successful transition into the community.


  • Volunteers may transport program participants in your personal vehicle at your own risk and liability. It is not mandatory that you provide rides to individuals. To receive mileage reimbursement, a copy of your drivers license and insurance card must be on file.


  • No person will be allowed to volunteer under the influence of alcoholic beverages or controlled substances.


  • Volunteers are expected to maintain good grooming and hygiene standards, and appropriate and conservative dress. You are a role model!
  • Anyone in need of first aid/personal help should contact 911 immediately and also inform the program director immediately. ALL accidents must be reported immediately.


  • Volunteers are expected to be respectful towards all individuals. Goodwill NCW/Circles of Support does not allow team members, volunteers or program participants to engage in harassment or intimidating behavior.


  • Goodwill NCW/Circles of Support reserves the right to refuse/separate volunteers from volunteeering for cause, which can include unacceptable behaviors during the course of volunteering with Circles such as dishonesty, theft, unhealthy boundaries, etc.


  • Goodwill NCW/Circles of Support will keep track of volunteer hours.

I have read and understand these program guidelines and agree to follow them during my participation as a volunteer with Community Circles of Support. I have received my Volunteer Resource and Training Binder.

Signed: ______________________________________________
Print:  _______________________________________________
Date:  _______________________________________________