The program was seeking $1.5 million annually for five years, with what McWhinnie said was the full support of the federal crime prevention centre.

The 15-year-old circles program, which operates on a shoe-string budget at 16 sites across Canada, had hoped to double the number of sexual and violent offenders under its watch, McWhinnie said in an interview.

"It's got a pretty firm track record of substantially reducing recidivism among sex offenders, by 83 per cent compared to those who don't have (access to the program).

"It's exactly what this government says they wanted to do. So we're quite shocked -- and I can tell you, quite frankly, so is the National Crime Prevention Centre shocked -- that this was turned down."

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For additional information as well as a press release and a sample letter (for Canadians to send to their MPs) go to the website of the Church Council on Justice and Corrections.