Thursday, July 5, 2007

Circle Justice

After reading to Chapter 16 of Touching Spirit Bear, I became a little confused about the Circle Justice and wanted to research it more. Circle Justice begins when a criminal pleads guilty in court and agrees to accept a sentence imposed by their community. People that attend the meetings can range from teachers, friends, family or just anyone in the community interested in helping the offender. The goals of Circle Justice include making the community safer, satisfying the needs of the victims’ and giving the offender skills to avoid crime. Minnesota was the first state to use the justice of circle sentencing.


Everyone in the circle is equal. The only person that can speak is whoever is holding the feather. The meetings are opened with a prayer by the Keeper, and they are also closed with a prayer. A Justice Center research team in Kake, Alaska observed their community’s adoption of Circle Justice for 18 months. The team’s research was funded by the National Science Foundation.

There was one case where six high schoolers in the town of Hastings put a homemade bomb at their vice principal’s door. They pleaded guilty to arson and property damage in court. The expected number of people to attend the circle was 70, and the time estimated for the meeting was more than four hours. A judge that attended the circle would decide the sentence if the circle couldn’t agree on one.

In an article on the front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune in August of 1998, a county attorney named Jennifer Fahey made the statement that “In the criminal justice system, all we can do is punish” (Jennifer Fahey, Mille Lacs County, Minessota, County Attorney). The Justic Circle is “a safe, if not sacred place where people feel comfortable enough to open up and talk about what happened, the emotional impact, ask questions and show concert for the offender and his family” (Mark Umbreit, director of the Center for Restorative Justice and Mediation, University of Minnesota). Mark Umbreit also said that Circle Justice focuses on healing everybody and the process “demands real behavior change” (Mark Umbreit, director of the Center for Restorative Justic and Mediation, University of Minnesota), unlike jail.

Jeremy Boyd was 24 at the time when the article was written. He was an Ojibwe living on the Mille Lacs reservation. He pleaded guilty to cruelty to animals after strangling his sister’s cat because he was mad at her. His sister just wanted an apology from him. Jeremy Boyd was involved in Circle Justice. Jeremy Boyd’s sentence included building and installing 14 geese boxes on Lake Millle Lacs, going to an anger support group and fasting. He took 18 months to complete the sentence that was appointed to him.

Examples of sentences include community service, referral to special programs such as anger management, peer counseling, counseling for the offender and their family, curfew rules and restitution/compensation (I.e. replacing a window that they broke). Jail is a last resort.

As to agreeing with the theme “Justice should heal, not punish”, I haven’t come to a definite decision. I believe that jail hardens a person, and it doesn’t necessarily help them in the future to avoid crime. On the other side, Garvey had been to jail when he was younger and hadn’t he turned into a better person? I guess my overall opinion is justice should heal, not punish, but the person has to want to heal for it to work.

Circle Justice should be applied in mid-Maine, but I don’t think it would work very well. Just looking at people around me that commit crimes, I don’t believe they would want to heal and would think of it as a waste of time. The only way that it could work would be if there were people that really wanted to change. I’m not sure if there are enough people that would want to change around here.

Works Cited:

Adams, Jim. “Circle Sentencing.” Freenet. 18 August 1998. Minneapolis Star Tribune. 5 July 2007
http://freenet.msp.mn.us/~fholson/circles-mn/circ-stb.htm.

“Circle for Peace and Justice”. Beloved Community Photo Gallery. 18 November 2006.
http://www.belovedcommunitycenter.org/photos/slides/Circle%20for%20Peace%20and%20Justice.html.

Rieger, Lisa. “Circle Peacemaking.” Alaska Justice: Forum. 6 December 2001. University of Alaska Anchorage. 5 July 2007.
http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/forum/17/4winter2001/a_circle.html.

“Sentencing Circle: a General Overview and Guidelines.” Native Law Centre of Canada. Tracy Grohs, Yorkton Tribal Council. 5 July 2007.
http://www.usask.ca/nativelaw/publications/jah/circle.html.
**Tracy Grohs is not the author of the article, but the information I used came from her.

27 comments:

Abby said...

Wow. Your two written things on Touching Spirit Bear have really helped me and my friend with our LA projects while we read the book. Thank you so much for posting these, it really really really helped, especially this one (seeing as there's no info on Circle Justice ANYWHERE)

Angelina said...

Angelina likes the spirit bear book but still can not find any info on circle justice....ANYWERE!!!

killer said...

I really like this book im not finished yet but i will be soon and people need to post more stuff on circle justice!!!

Coltin said...

Holy crap! Your information has hellpeed me so much with my persuassive letter assignment. I had to write about Circle Justice after reading Touching Spirit Bear in my language class.

cutt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cutt said...

the book Touching Spirit Bear is like my favorite book.Even though im only on chapter 14 i still love it.my friend says hed rather go to jail so something like what happened to Cole didnt happen to him,i just think hes being a selpish little brat and i disagree on what he said.I LOVE TOUCHING SPIRIT BEAR

Kaytlin said...

OMFG!! thank you so much!! =)

Debi said...

Something to consider...not just anyone can go through Circle Justice. The offender has to apply and be accepted. It's not an automatic option. In your paper you mention that not many of the people you know would be interested in Circle Justice...that's okay, jail and the traditional system is still an option. I like that Circle Justice gives an alternative for consideration.

Debi said...

p.s. Great essay!

sheezyyyy said...

thats so cool that you hasve told me about your stories that you have to be in circle justice i would like to have the experience of circle justice but i dont have to go. but thanks for telling me about your life basically thanks byeee :)

sheezyyyy said...

thats so cool that you hasve told me about your stories that you have to be in circle justice i would like to have the experience of circle justice but i dont have to go. but thanks for telling me about your life basically thanks byeee :)

Cayyleeyyy said...

I love touching spirit bear
thanks

sara said...

i have to da a stupied thing on circle justes and i hate the teacher whos making me shes a bit#$

sara said...

my stupied teacher is making me do this stupied assinment about circle justice i need more info

Charles said...

Nott enuph inphomashon onn Sirkil jUsist

Charles said...

I not undert sund nutin U say! dut deeb bap boup der dee der dar!

Charles said...

Oi yam not undarstondin wat dis is meeeenin zeeees maces noe sens 2 me & IS GIVINZ ME A GERT heed aick. who ever wrote this book is full of crap! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!
I can not take this any more aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!

This is my last day on the moon!

I can see my house from here.

Charles said...

ming the king

Matthew said...

yay! finally circle justice is found

Matthew said...

joey post a comment

satanicwaffle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
satanicwaffle said...

no one likes you

satanicwaffle said...

you burn my ass

satanicwaffle said...

you depress me

satanicwaffle said...

charles your drunk on dirty martinis

Brittney said...

Thank you so much! It is nice to have an opinion from someone other than my LA teacher! this is really helpling me with my essay questions! thanks again! :)

InkBlots said...

Thanks for the info, it helps a lot :)