For Clients: Circle vs. the Traditional Process

Deciding to pursue going to Circle, rather than the traditional criminal justice process, is a very different experience.  Clients involved in a Sentencing Circle can generally expect:

  • A supportive and non-judgmental atmosphere with community volunteers in which clients will be asked to talk about the incident(s) that brought them to Circle as well as how they want to change.
  • Circles with community members 2 times per month pre-sentence, and once a month post-sentence, if continuing in Circle is recommended through the sentence.
  • Clients may work between Circles with professionals or experts who may help with specific personal issues or challenges, such as counselors/therapists, doctors, social workers, or through parenting classes or support groups.
  • Contrast to traditional system:
    • what was the harm caused (Circle) vs. what law was broken
    • what needs have arisen from the harm (Circle) vs. who broke the law
    • how do those needs get met (Circle) vs. how do we punish the person who broke the law
“What all of {circle volunteers} do is [special]. We need more programs that help rather than shuffle people into a category and shun them... All people need to take time out of their day to think about virtues such as compassion and peace. More importantly, just to listen to one another without distraction or interruption.”
— Former Client