Monday, April 2, 2007

Circling toward justice

An guest editorial by James Patrick McDonald in the Boston Globe cites the potential of sentencing circles:

When used in alternative sentencing, a peacemaking circle includes the victim of a crime, the defendant, and families or supporters of both. Also present are police, court authorities, and other agencies -- such as child welfare agencies -- with an interest in the life of either the victim or the perpetrator. All may be heard.

Still, the circle honors the victim especially, who can participate in a more comprehensive way than in a criminal court proceeding. In an alternative sentencing circle, all participants must come to a consensus on the punishment of the offender, within the law. "That doesn't mean that jail time is off the table," Phoung adds. The group, including the defendant, might still decide there is no remedy other than prison.

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