Intern Kasi's Blog: #MeToo and Restorative Justice; Will It Help End Sexual Violence?

 Read the article about Berkeley here

Read the article about Berkeley here

Over the last few months, our country’s main entertainment business Hollywood was rattled when accusations against many top movie makers came out. Sexual violence is no joke, and should never be taken as one. The question is, how can it end? The #MeToo movement is a movement started recently, at the Golden Globes actually, that is showing many celebrities standing in solidarity of victims of sexual violence. With Restorative Justice being shown to work in many different ways in the criminal justice system, who’s to say it won’t work in the case of sexual violence? Restorative Justice processes invite people who’ve experienced sexual misconduct to tell their stories on their own terms, without judgment. While putting the victim and the attacker in the same room may seem counter-intuitive, there was a case at a college where a male student sexually assaulted a female student and the two were ‘sentenced’ to sit together in a room and talk through what had happened. Both the victim and the attacker were able to talk through what had happened and why it had happened. The victim showed the attacker through words how the attack made her feel and what it took from her. This act forced the attacker to face the situation of what he did and why it was wrong instead of just telling him that it was wrong and throwing him in prison.[Editor's note: Washington County Community Circles never requires a victim to participate in Circles and/or participate in a Circle with the defendant/client.  All participation by victims is voluntary and a case does not get accepted to Circle without agreement by the victim that the case be referred.]

 Read the Washington Post Story on the Golden Globes

Read the Washington Post Story on the Golden Globes

In many cases, what it looks like for a victim’s session with Restorative Justice is that they are able to sit down with a combination of community members, volunteers, and counselors to ensure that they get the support they need. These sessions have community members and volunteers opening up and suggesting resources and coping mechanisms for the victim. The sessions can be incredibly healing for the victim and the community for many reasons. One major reason being that the victim knows that they are not alone and that there are people out there who only want what is best for them, no matter what it is. While our country and our criminal justice system has an incredibly long way to go in this matter, Restorative Justice and what it stands for is a step in the right direction.

All information gathered for this post came from:

Intern Kasi's Blog: How is Restorative Justice Being Used in Other Communities?

Now that we all understand what Restorative Justice is and what it can look like (no? start here!), what does it actually look like? In a sneak peak of a new documentary titled Healing Justice: Cultivating a World of Belonging, the director of a Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice speaks about a case given to her about a kid who had stolen a car and how they are using the concept of Restorative Justice to “punish” the child. I put the word punish in quotes because with Restorative Justice, it is replacing the concept of punishing an offender with them being held accountable for their actions. You can find the video at this url:

 Order the Book on Living Justice Press

Order the Book on Living Justice Press

Another way that Restorative Justice is being used in our country is in schools! What this looks like in terms of a school is that it empowers the students to resolve conflicts among one another on their own and in small groups. So basically, the students are brought together in small groups to talk, ask questions, and then air their grievances. This is helping school districts reduce the amounts of suspensions and expulsion rates. The students are even saying that they feel happier and safer at school. If Restorative Justice is doing this amount of good in something like schools, which are filled with hormone raging teenagers who only want to make other feel bad about themselves, who’s to say it won’t work on a larger scale, like our justice system? [Editor's note - Minnesota schools have strong restorative practices programs and training.  Find more information on the Department of Education site here - or read Nancy Riestenberg's book in Circles in schools.]

Intern Kasi's Blog: Week in the life of an intern

 Respect is one of the core Washington County Community Circles values

Respect is one of the core Washington County Community Circles values

RESPECT. What does it mean to respect someone? To me, respect is knowing when to confront someone and knowing that people may know more about a certain subject than me. Respect is also a basic human right that all human beings deserve until proven otherwise. This is the value in the spotlight this week at circle. It really opened up my mind to what was talked about throughout the hour and a half I was there, due to the snowstorm I had to leave before the second circle that evening.

On Thursday night, I was able to see the values of WCCC in effect and watch it do what it set out to do. It is one thing to hear about circle working and it changing the lives of the clients, but it is an entirely other feeling to actually see it in action. Hearing about the client when they first started at circle as opposed to now is mind blowing and enlightening. They are a completely different person according to both themselves and the other circle members. In the beginning they did not want to be there and felt it was a waste of time. But seeing them this last Thursday so open to sharing their feelings and what is going on in their personal life including some actions they are taking, and how their relationship with their family members has changed in the time from when they began at WCCC and now is astounding. Before really seeing WCCC in action, I wanna say I was partially skeptical on if it was going to work. But now, all skepticism I had is gone and I can truly see everything that I was excited about with this internship really happening.

In regards to research being done by myself and another intern on the subject of Restorative Justice, with every article I read the more surprised and perplexed I am at the fact that Restorative Justice works and can be implemented in many places that will see results. As part of my class that goes along with interning with WCCC, I am required to make an infographic on a topic relating to a current issue as well as my internship. I have decided to take the overarching subject of Restorative Justice and apply it toward fixing, and possibly eliminating, the school-to-prison pipeline. For those who do not know what this is, it is basically what it says it is. A child will get in trouble in school and that will lead to them landing themselves in prison as an adult, almost right out of school. I want to see how Restorative Justice can help the pipeline in at-risk neighborhoods and districts as these are the places that really need it.

I am excited to continue updating you all on this each week! So until next time, see ya!~Kasi

Intern Miranda's Blog: Who Does Circle Help - and How?

Now that we've discussed what circle does, and what it is, it's time to begin the discussion on how it can, and has, been used to help others. The premise of circle justice is not new. It was used in many cultures before it came to us modernly, and is still being used by many of them. The most important factor in circle justice is that it allows both victims and offenders to be heard and to work through the underlying issues, in order to truly begin the healing process.

One of the main problems with our justice system, and the reason there is so much recidivism, is that we don't focus on the actual problem, instead we simply remove people from the public. This means that when they eventually do get released, they do not have coping tools, or connections to the people around them to help them continue to make good choices.

Circle assists with this in many ways. By participating in circle, it is possible to discover and work through issues that may have caused you to make the poor choices that led to the crime. Perhaps you are stressed and lashed out, or don't know how to speak to someone who angers you. Maybe you don't know where to get help finding a job or keeping one. Circle gives you the opportunity to open up about that, in a safe environment, and gives you a whole group of individuals who may be able to offer insight and help.

This fact, also offers a whole group of the community who is now invested in you, and helping you. It provides connection and care that you would not have gotten in a traditional sentence. When we feel connected, it is proven that we are less likely to re offend.

For the victim, circle can also be incredibly helpful. It provides the chance to ask questions, and get answers you could not get normally. It also provides the ability to say what you feel needs to be said to the offender. You can then work forward on actually beginning to repair the damage, instead of simply trying to move on. [editor's note: WCCC never requires victims to participate, focusing instead on empowering the victim to participate in whatever way works best for them and their healing process]

For the community, circle strengthens their own bonds, but also helps them to get closure over the incident as well. If the offender is a burglar, and they are simply sent away, when they return, so does the worry of being victimized again. However, when they attend circle, the community members may learn they needed money to feed their family. They can then begin to work through the problem, in the hope that addressing the issue will prevent more incidents.

Overall, circle provides more connection and healing that holds. It may be an unfamiliar idea for handling offenders, but it's been proven to work. I often think about how we raise children. We do our best to explain what was wrong, and to change the thinking or circumstances that led to the behavior, so it does not continue. Why should our approach to adults not aim for the same thing? Circle does.~Mirands

Intern Kasi's Blog: Restorative Justice Basics

Restorative justice is exactly what the title says; restorative justice. It wants to restore justice, but in what ways exactly? While restorative justice is used widely through both the criminal justice system and the education system, it is easier to describe for the purpose of this post in terms of the criminal justice system.

According to Jane C. Murphy with the Baltimore Sun, restorative justice is an approach that aims to repair the harm caused by a crime instead of simply punishing the perpetrator. What this looks like is that the offender and the victim of the crime sit together in a room, not alone but with one or more other people there to ensure the safety and support of both individuals, and talk through the crime that was committed. Both of the individuals hear each other’s side of the story, how the crime impacted and influenced the victim and why the offender may have committed the crime. By doing this, it starts the conversation on how the offender can take responsibility for their actions and learn from them at the same time. What our criminal justice system is doing currently with many offenders is sentencing them quickly and throwing them into prison, no matter what the crime was. This doesn’t allow for any time for reflection and learning on the part of the offender. Just being thrown into prison with hundreds, even thousands, of other criminals is taking ten steps backward in regards to taking responsibility for what was done.

If every justice system throughout not only the United States, but the world, would adopt this concept in their proceedings, it would not only help keep people out of prison, but also help the victims find solace and healing in what happened. For now, small steps are being taken toward this. Community Circles is one of those small steps, not only is it helping the community get involved in the justice system and helping the offenders be accountable but it is also reducing recidivism back into prison.~Kasi

Your Mom is in Luck: WCCC's Annual Gertens Fundraiser is Live!

The 2018 Gertens Fundraiser is here!  We are pleased to share some exciting new offerings this year along with the traditional hanging plants and potted plants.  You can purchase gift cards, herbs, and a wide variety of beautiful hanging baskets and potted plants.

 The Lovie Dovie ($30)  Courtesy of Gertens

The Lovie Dovie ($30) Courtesy of Gertens

You'll find pictures and descriptions on the form (found here), where you can order and pay online, or send in a check.  

All orders must be placed by April 4th. Pick-up will be on May 9th in Roseville.

Last year we sold 58 plants, flowers, and gift cards.  Can you help us beat that goal this year??


Intern Miranda's Blog: Circles in Conversation

In light of the school shooting in Florida, it is important that we open the conversation. At Hamline this is what our professors hoped to do. The amazing part, they chose to do so in a circle setting.

Circle can be used not only for those who have committed an offense, but for members of communities, as large as nationwide, to discuss feelings, reactions, and results of events. So often, we take the debate after something like this to social media, and it becomes hard to have a true conversation. The nature of social media makes it seem like the perfect setting, as you are removed from each other, and can speak freely. But do you really hear the others?

On Friday February 16, a group of students from Hamline university gathered to attempt just that. We laid out the facts, and then opened the conversation. By using a circle setting (or in this case, many small circles) everyone was able to voice their opinions. It gave us the chance to work through some of the feelings we had been experiencing.

Later in the event, we were able to talk openly about ideas, and beliefs revolving around these tragedies. Why do they keep happening? What can we do on nationwide, community, or individual levels? How do we have to change, and how do we address this subject? It's a hard one, and many of the questions asked above, and at the event are hard to think about, and even harder to answer. But being together face to face, with the ability to each speak and the intent to hear, not solely to answer, it became possible to begin to work through it. We were able to to circulate ideas, and to connect with others. Most importantly, it provided a reminder that none of us are facing this alone, and that all our voices should be, and need to be heard. There was no hard divide over one issue or another, but the ability to speak your own beliefs, and see where they could be applied to others.

It is in this time, where we need to make a change. And it is then, that we need more than ever, to have the ability to hear others, and not simply to be focused on our own ambitions, or beliefs. It is most important, to make these conversations something that all people can engage in. Ing act, there are several schools who are hosting circle sessions in order to get students talking, and ideas circulating. The ability to truly converse, in the way circles allow, is a skill that will be incredibly important as we try to move forward, in finding peace, and in finding solutions, and ways to help.

My heart goes out to all those involved, and so do my voice, and my ears. ~Miranda

New Interns with WCCC - Join Miranda and Kasi as They Learn About Circles

We will have a new blog series for the next several weeks, courtesy of two new WCCC interns, Miranda and Kasi.  Learn about WCCC and restorative justice along with Miranda and Kasi as they intern with board member Samantha Fahey and volunteer on cases in Stillwater.

This week was my first official week as an intern with Washington County Community Circles and it has been an eye opening experience. It wasn't just attending circle on Thursday night, which I will get into later, it was beginning actual research on both restorative justice and circle that has changed my view on a lot of different aspects of the American justice system. There are a lot of ways that we as a society can change it but as an individual, it begins with learning and understanding how exactly I can change the way the justice system “punishes" offenders. Before finding this internship, I did not know what restorative justice was exactly. I had a small inkling as to what it was because of my faculty advisor who is very interested in and is an advocate for restorative justice. The more I research the more I grow in excitement for what my future may look like in regards to reforming the criminal justice system.

Now going back to the circle I attended on Thursday evening, while it may have been what others would call “disappointing,” I call enlightening. The circle that was held wasn't an ‘official’ circle but it was still an experience that I will never forget. We spoke about the shooting that happened in Florida and how that made us feel as not only a person in this country but as a country as a whole. We spoke about compassion as the value this week and each of us that were there spoke of our disappointment and disgust in the fact that school shootings are so normal in this country. We then went on to theorize on reasons why things like this keep happening. While we never came to a full answer we can probably all agree that it has something to do with the lack of guidance and direction from parents toward their children.

Kids are left to their own devices in most cases, never really knowing what is right and what it wrong. But if we can figure out why this keeps occurring and then fix it, maybe our country has a real future. To conclude, I m looking forward to the next 12 weeks as an intern with Washington County Community Circles. See you next week! ~ Kasi

MLK Community Breakfast in Stillwater Next Monday

Looking for a way to celebrate our community and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?  One of our volunteers shared the following information on a community breakfast next Monday:

There is an MLK Breakfast to be held at St. Peter’s Church at 7 am on Monday morning, Jan. 15th. It is designed as a community-wide event for everyone and also one that will recognize a couple local folks notable for their work on human rights (a co-sponsor for the Breakfast is the Stillwater Human Rights Commission). There will be a breakfast, then a chance to view the livestream from the Mpls Breakfast with a keynote and then some local celebrating of our own community and people in it doing good work for justice, peace and inclusion.  Tickets for the breakfast are $5 (kids 12 and under are free) and are available through INTERFAITH ACTION.

See this flyer for more information!


Fall Newsletter Now Available: Community is our Buzzword This Season

'Community' is WCCC's Buzzword This Season

Take a few minutes to read our latest newsletter here!

A part of WCCC's mission is, "building a better community."  We continually strive to find creative approaches to build a better community in which we live in.  Be sure to read this issue of Talking Circles to learn how WCCC has taken part in building Washington County's community and learn more about a new, innovative circle that offers another opportunity for you to get involved.

We're also ramping up for Give to the Max Day on Thursday, November 16.  We hope that you will help us maximize our matching donation from our valued partner Ogletree Deakins.  They're back matching your donations dollar-for-dollar up to $500! 

Value of the Day: Service

WCCC hosted a Circle 101 Training this weekend for 9 current and potential volunteers. We are pleased that all trainees are planning to volunteer with our organization following the training (or they already are volunteering)! We are humbled by the strong value our community members have for service - for our organization as well as our clients and community members. 

If you missed the training and would like to attend one in the future,  please email us to get on a waiting list.  We may schedule a training before next spring if there is enough interest to do so.  Thank you all for your service!


"Securing" New Partners

Pardon our pun. We had the pleasure of talking Restorative Justice Circles with the Information Security Services team at Blue Cross Blue Shield MN today.  We were invited in as a spotlight on nonprofits in the community. Lynn Schurrer and Jen Lenander gave an overview of WCCC's work and brainstormed ways for them, or people in their network, can support Circles by volunteering or donating. 

Does your organization provide matches to your donations to nonprofits? Blue Cross Blue Shield MN does! Those corporate matches are an excellent way to maximize the impact of your generous donations. See more about the BCBS program here

Today's Value: Humility

Last night we had over 40 Washington County community members and criminal justice professionals come together to discuss Sex Trafficking in Washington County.  In our community.  Our experts - Imran Ali, Paul Kroshus, Aimee Schroeder, and Kathy Woxland - provided important and compelling information about what our community needs to know about commercial sex exploitation. WCCC is humbled by the community interest and for our speakers to spend their evening educating us on their very important work. Their passion for this difficult work was humbling to see. We are grateful and in awe of the work they do every day.

 We are inspired.

WCCC unveiled a protocol for Accountability Circles, developed with the Washington County Attorney's Office, aimed at building a culture in our communities of respect for all humans, starting with those seeking out commercial sex in Washington County. Contact us to learn more about how to get involved.

 Imran Ali kicks off the Sex Trafficking Training on September 7, 2017.

Imran Ali kicks off the Sex Trafficking Training on September 7, 2017.

Summer 2017 Newsletter

Squeezing the last ounces of fun out of this summer...

Fall is ramping up to be a busy season for WCCC. We're getting ready to put away the suntan lotion and to set up our circle chairs.

Be sure to read this issue of Talking Circles for more information on:

  • Some note worthy upcoming events (spoiler alert: Sex Trafficking in Washington County and Circle 101 training).
  • Details about our new and improved website and blog.

If you have questions, please email us at
or call us at (651) 492-4996.

Thank you for helping us build a better community, one circle at a time.

Our Partners: Eckberg Lammers Edition

Today we had a great opportunity to meet with attorneys and staff at Eckberg Lammers to discuss when and how Circles could be beneficial in cases they process as part of their prosecution of misdemeanor cases in Washington County, namely the city of Woodbury.  We look forward to future referrals and conversations about how WCCC can be a resource on the right cases and with the right individuals and families.  Special thanks to Rebecca Christensen, Wendy Murphy, and Tom Weidner for taking time out of their busy schedules to hear what WCCC has been up to recently and commit to partner with us - and Tubman - for the benefit of the Woodbury and Washington County Community!

Sentencing Circles in Law School? This Canadian University Says Yes

A university in Canada is increasing the diversity of their faculty to have more  tenured indigenous professors. The university hopes the new professors will bring their personal experiences and world view to all subjects.  As an example,  they hope to teach more about restorative justice and sentencing circles,  used my First Nations peoples to resolve crime. 

WCCC was founded on principles we learned from the First Nations people in the Yukon. We're very excited to see that sentencing circles continue to be integrated into our traditional systems and institutions internationally.

From Ellie Krug: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an important and difficult value that we talk about in Circle often when we talk about how clients can repair harm to themselves, those they hurt, and the community.  Ellie Krug - writer, lawyer, human in her own words - wrote recently about forgiveness and creating an inclusive environment in which forgiveness is valued.  We've included an exerpt from her most recent newsletter.  Sign up for Ellie's newsletter here and visit her website here.

Let’s face it: in diverse workplaces, there’s a greater risk for misunderstandings, misstatements (aka micro-aggressions) or hurt feelings between colleagues who themselves are diverse. This is in part because everyone brings to the workplace different perspectives and experiences, some of which may be rooted in historical and personal trauma. It’s inevitable that someone will say or do something that will adversely impact a co-worker; ordinarily this is a problem but when the subject matter of the offending action is tied to one’s identity as a diverse person, things get even more complicated.

From an HR (or even a simple humanist) perspective, it’s important that the offending work colleague apologize for the statement or slight. As important, the team member who’s been offended or slighted needs to forgive the offender. A team member who harbors animosity toward a past offender often is less productive and a potential agent to degrade morale, particularly among other diverse team members.

Here are some quick tips about how to foster forgiveness in a diverse workplace:

  1. Talk about and frequently reinforce that forgiveness is a workplace or organizational value.
  2. Ensure that you, as a workplace leader, practice what you preach by forgiving team members who have offended you.
  3. In the instance of another team member who’s been offended and once an apology has been made, talk about the need for forgiveness; then set the expectation that the offended team member will work toward forgiving the transgressor.
  4. Check-in with the offended team member to determine where they are relative to forgiveness; if they’re finding it difficult to forgive the offender, provide resources on the power of forgiveness. (One such resource is the REACH model created by Everett L. Worthington, which he developed after a horrific crime was committed upon a family member.)
  5. If the offended team member still can’t forgive, get help—bring in a professional/therapist who can add an element of objectivity to the situation.
  6. Conduct workplace training on the power of apologizing and forgiving. Everett Worthington reports that an eight-hour forgiveness workshop can reduce subjects’ depression and anxiety levels as much as several months of psychotherapy would. 

Some of the above points can be found in “The Power of Forgiveness at Work” by Brooke Deterline. 

In short, forgiveness needs to be a key personal value for anyone. It’s not always easy to forgive but doing so allows one the freedom to move on and grow as a person.