photo - courtroom sceneGuiding Principles for Sentencing Circles


Involve The Community
Circles, more than other rehabilitative justice practices, rely on strong community involvement. The process is community-driven, not driven by the courts. If the community is not strongly involved and committed, then circles are unworkable. You must start the process with the community.

Share Your Sentencing Power
As a judge, you will spend most of your time recruiting and encouraging community members and supporting the circles. By sharing your sentencing power, you are showing your confidence in the community. Being a judge with a willingness to partner with the community is the key ingredient. You will act as a resource to the community by answering questions about the criminal justice system and by assisting in determining the procedures for the circle process.

Create Your Own Circle Community
What one community does may not work for another. The flexibility of circles is one of their strongest benefits. Adapt them to meet your community’s needs.

Train The Circle Volunteers
Once you have located your community members and established an interest in circles, your circle community needs training. The circle process can be difficult to grasp. Use established circle trainers to provide instruction. A group called Washington County Peacekeeping Circles in Stillwater, Minnesota, is willing to train other communities, as are other organizations including The National Judicial College.