U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Peacemaking Circles

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 59 Issue: 7 Dated: (December 1997) Pages: 72,74,76,122
K Pranis
Date Published
4 pages
Peacemaking circles use traditional circle ritual and structure to create a respectful space in which the crime victim, victim supporters, offender, offender supporters, judge, prosecutor, defense counsel, police, court workers, and all interested community members can speak in a shared search for understanding the event at issue; participants also identify the steps necessary to address the harm caused by the offense and to prevent future occurrences.
The peacemaking circle process typically involves several steps that lead to the sentencing. An application by the offender to the circle process is followed by the creation of a support system for the offender and a support system for the victim. Other steps are a healing circle for the victim and healing circle for the offender. These steps are then followed by the sentencing circle. After the sentencing circle, there may be follow-up circles at appropriate intervals to review progress on the sentencing agreement. The circle process is not simply a process for finding more appropriate justice; it is an exercise in building community, because it brings community members together in a forum that allows exploration of the underlying causes of crime and encourages each community member to offer gifts or capacities to the process of finding solutions and implementing them. The circle process allows full expression of emotions and channels the energy of those emotions toward positive solutions. In the circles, decisions are based on consensus, and everyone involved must agree that the decision is one with which they can live. Circles draw on the life experiences of all the participants to understand the problem at hand and to devise workable solutions.