Outcomes, Inc.

In most of our communities we have forgotten what it means to feel safe and secure; to be our best selves and know that we will not be violated, disrespected, or judged. When crime and conflict occurs in our neighborhoods we withdraw feeling violated and abandoned with a sense of loss and despair. In all this turmoil our culture has lost its sense of respect, responsibility, and relationship.

The purpose of our Restorative Justice Circles is to look at wrong doing and empower the individual and our community to take actions that can reverse the cycle of fear of youth and the resulting isolation and disconnection that youth experience. It is a way to engage all those impacted by harm, crime, and conflict in a way that gives back a sense of safety, a sense of meaning when meaning has been destroyed, and a sense of empowerment when feelings of helplessness and loss of control are prevalent.

“A healed offender with good connections in the community is a safer Neighbor.”

Peacemaking Circles with Young People

The peacemaking Circle process is one of several practices now being used as an alternative to traditional justice and other criminal justice mechanisms for responding to violations and harms.  The wisdom inherent in the peacemaking Circle process as well as in restorative justice principles can help humans learn to live justly far beyond the defined sphere of criminal law.  Walking the talk of peacemaking Circles is about learning to live in a better relationship with oneself and others. It is about learning to develop respectful, mutually supportive relationships—within families, organizations, communities, and governments.  Ultimately, Circles are about justice and the profoundly hopeful possibility that we can together create better, more just ways to live with each other. At the end of the day, sitting in Circle is about feeling safe to be your best, authentic self.

Objective of Circle process while in detention:

Young people who are detained begin to re-vision their lives and shift how they see themselves and others.  The Circle Process is a storytelling process. Every person has a story, and every story has a lesson to offer.  In the Circle, people touch one another’s lives by sharing stories that have meaning to them.  Sitting in Circle begins a journey of accountability to one’s self, others, and the community that is far-reaching in people’s lives and relationships.  Given that Circle is about practicing a different “way to be” in the world based on a commitment to values, it is natural for Circle participants to model holding themselves accountable for their actions many times and in many situations.  Young people learn how to “act in a good way” by gently but continually trying to act in accordance to Circle values, so that they can be in greater harmony with others and themselves.  What is acting in a good way? To not be angry, pissed off, and bitter, because that is how young people act a lot of the time.  It is about giving young people an opportunity to experience what it means to be safe to express their deepest harms and hurts which will transfer over to their understanding of the harm and hurt they have inflicted on others.

Objective of Circle process after release:

The Circle process after release supports young people on their journey to moving in a more positive direction.  Circles help young people grow not only by helping them understand what they want to change about their lives but also by making their intentions known to people who are willing to support them in making those changes happen.  Circles help young people develop concrete plans and stick to them so that they can reach their goals.  They build meaningful connections among young people as well as with a network of adults, all of whom stand ready to offer concrete assistance. 

Key Elements of Circles

Ceremony – Opening and closing ceremonies mark the time and space of the Circle as a space apart.  It is a distinctly different space because the Circle invites people to be in touch with the value of connecting deeply with others, and it encourages people to drop ordinary masks and protections that create distance from others.

Guidelines – The purpose of the guidelines is to establish clear expectations for conduct based on what the participants need to make the space safe to speak in their authentic voices, and to act from the impulse to be connected to others in a good way.

Talking Piece – The talking piece is an object that is passed from person to person around the Circle.  It assures speakers that they will not be interrupted, that they will be able to pause and find the words that express what is on their hears and minds, that they will be fully and respectfully heard.

Keeping/Facilitation – The keeper helps the group access its individual and collective wisdom by opening the space in a careful way and monitoring the quality of the space as the group proceeds.

Consensus Decision-Making – Consensus decision-making is grounded in a deep commitment to understand the needs and interests of all participants and to work toward meeting all those needs.

Follow-up – Follow-up Circles may be used at appropriate intervals to review progress on agreements.

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