Sentencing circles by jianglifang


           Restorative Justice

   Restorative justice is a response to crime that
    focuses on restoring the losses suffered by victims,
    holding offenders accountable for the harm they have
    caused, and building peace within communities.
   It is a different way of thinking about crime and our
    response to crime
   It focuses on the harm caused by crime: repairing
    the harm done to victims and reducing future harm
    by preventing crime It is achieved through a co-
    operative effort by both government and the
    It requires offenders to take responsibility for their
    actions and for the crime that they have caused.
    Benefits of Restorative Justice

   It views criminal acts more comprehensively: rather
    than defining crime only as lawbreaking, it
    recognizes that offenders harm victims.
   It involves more parties: rather than giving key roles
    to government and offender it involves the victim
    and community.
   It measures success differently: rather than
    measuring how much punishment has been inflicted
    it measures how much harm has been repaired or
   It recognizes the importance of community
    involvement and initiative rather than leaving the
    problem of crime alone to the government.
Aboriginal Peoples and The Justice
     1991 Aboriginal people made up about 3% of the
      Canadian population but made up 11% of the federal
      prison population and 15% of the provincial prison
     In 1996 in Manitoba they made up 49% of those in
      provincial jails
     In Saskatchewan they made up 72%
     Studies suggest that these high numbers are the
      result of Systematic Discrimination
     Critics say that because the system was set up
      without Aboriginal input it does not appreciate the
      circumstances facing many Aboriginal people
         Evidence of Systematic
   Aboriginal people are more likely to be placed under
    surveillance or arrested
   Minor offences committed in public by Aboriginal
    people are treated more harshly
   Lawyers spend less time consulting with Aboriginal
   Aboriginal people plead guilty more often, which
    leads to prison sentences (Most Aboriginal cultures
    believe in accepting responsibility; even if you didn’t
    do it)
   Aboriginal people are less likely to participate in
    prison rehabilitation programs leading to more time
    spent behind bars
          Evidence of Systematic
           Discrimination (cont.)
   Aboriginal people have difficulty obtaining parole,
    because their communities are too small to avoid
    coming into contact with people with criminal records
   Almost 25% of Aboriginal people are unemployed
   Areas with high levels of unemployment and poverty
    usually have problems with criminal activity
What is a Sentencing Circle?
   It is an attempt to rediscover the traditional
    Aboriginal method of dealing with members of the
    community who have broken the law.
   When the person has been found guilty or has
    pleaded guilty they can ask for the judge to refer
    him/her to a sentencing circle.
   The aim of the circle is to shift the process of
    sentencing from punishment to rehabilitation and
   Offender is faced with the impact of their actions in
    front of respected community members, Elders,
    peers, family, the victim and their family, creating an
    opportunity for real change.
Who should sit in a sentencing circle?
   The victim and members of the victim’s
   The accused and members of his/her family.
   Elder or appropriate community
   A chief or councilor from the areas where the
    victim and accused have resided or where
    the offense occurred.
   A judge, defense lawyer or prosecutor and/or
    police officer may also sit in the circle.
Several Factors to Consider
   The accused must agree to be referred to the
    sentencing circle.
   The accused must have deep roots in the
   The Elders are willing to participate.
   The victim is willing to participate under
    voluntary circumstances (no pressure to
   The court is willing to take a risk and depart
    from the usual method of sentencing.
What happens at a sentencing circle?
   It is usually held in a Band hall, school
    gym or outdoors.
   Chairs are arranged in a circle.
   Tape recorder is placed in the center of
    the circle.
   People take their places and the judge
    asks one of the Elders to say a prayer or
    perform a sacred Sweet Grass ceremony.
What happens at a sentencing circle?
   Everyone will have a chance to speak.
   Only one person speaks at a time.
   The discussion continues until all
    members agree on a sentence.
   The judge decides whether or not the
    proposed sentence is within the
    boundaries of the law and formally
    imposes the sentence.
Sentencing circle exclusions

   Repeat offenders or the offense is
   If incarceration may exceed 2 years.
   The attitude of the offender prohibits
    his/her involvement.
   Community is not prepared to be involved
    in the circle.
   Not all parties agree to participate in a
    circle .
Sentencing circle rules
 There are no special powers or
  privileges for anyone in the circle.
 There are no interruptions while a
  person is speaking.
 Decisions are made on the basis of
Group activity
 Scenario:
John has just had one really bad day.
  Anything that could go wrong did. He
  failed a major test, his project was
  deleted from the computer, he forgot his
  lunch and to top it off he had forgotten
  the keys to his house so he was locked
  out after school. Later that night after
  things had settled and he was starting to
  unwind he decided he would finish up his
  term project for his history class. He
  looks at the clock and it is 12:30am.
Scenario cont’d
   He is finally finished his project that has
    taken several weeks to complete. John
    gets ready for bed, returning to his room
    to discover his sisters cat licking and
    pawing at spilled coffee all over his
    project. In a mad rage he lunges towards
    the cat and begins to strangle it. Not
    knowing his own strength he
    unintentionally has killed the cat. This is
    not normal behavior for John and he is
    very remorseful but this incident was the
    straw that broke the camels back!
Today’s assignment
   Member’s of the class will hold a
    sentencing circle to determine a sentence
    for John.
   Keep in mind that the sentence must also
    help rehabilitate John.
   Be sure to follow the rules that apply to a
    sentencing circle.
Members of the Circle
   Positions:
   Offender – abused the cat
   Victim – owner of the cat
   Judge
   3 Elders and 3 community members
   Local Chief
   Mother of the offender and the victim
   Policeman
Group work
 In groups of four come up with a
  scenario where someone would be
  using a sentencing circle.
 Write out the scenario and include
  all those who would play a part in it
 Include a description/script foe each
  of the members

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