Sentencing circles

Aboriginal justice procedure

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About the project Edit

Sentencing circles were born in the Yukon territory in Canada with the aim of rediscovering the traditional Aboriginal method of dealing with members of the community who have broken the law. Sometimes called peacemaking circles, they use traditional circle ritual and structure to involve the victim, victim supporters, the offender, offender supporters, judge and court personnel, prosecutor, defense counsel, police, and all interested community members. Within the circle, people can speak from the heart in a shared search for understanding of the event, and together identify the steps necessary to assist in healing all affected parties and prevent future crimes.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Sentencing circles are an alternative to traditional justice procedure. It is a form of is called «restorative justice» where offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and take an active role in repairing its harm. It is based on a theory of justice that focuses on crime and wrong doing as acted against the individual or community rather than the state.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Very little research has been conducted to date on the effectiveness of sentencing circles but one study conducted by Judge Barry Stuart (1996) in Canada indicated that fewer offenders who had gone through the circle recidivated than offenders who were processed by standard criminal justice practices. Those who have been involved with circles report that circles empower participants to resolve conflict in a manner that shares responsibility for outcomes; generate constructive relationships; enhance respect and understanding among all involved; and foster enduring, innovative solutions.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

Sentencing circles have been developed most extensively in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Yukon and have been used occasionally in several other communities. Their use spread to the United States in 1996 when a pilot project was initiated in Minnesota.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

What is the business model of this project? Edit


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