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Circle Sentencing: A Victim Centered Process

NCJ Number
Crime Victims Report Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: March/April 2001 Pages: 1-2,6
Charles Phillips
Date Published
March 2001
3 pages
This article describes Circle Sentencing, a restorative justice practice that seeks to involve all those most affected by crime.
Circle Sentencing is rooted in the peacemaking practices of Native American and other indigenous cultures. Sessions usually consist of 15 to 25 participants including victims, offenders, and support systems for both parties and possibly representatives from law enforcement, probation, attorneys, and the courts. The circle is held at a neutral venue and one or two facilitators assist by keeping participants focused on the principles and issues of the process. The offender has already made at least a verbal admission of guilt, so that is not an issue for debate. Discussions are often highly emotional and may address participants' feelings of how and why the offender has strayed into criminal activity and how he or she might begin to repay the victim and the community. The circle discusses and comes to a consensus regarding sentencing. The article concludes that perhaps the most significant outcome of the process is the remarkable level of satisfaction and healing expressed by participants and their appreciation of the opportunity to participate in the decision making process needed in responding to a crime.