How does a Restorative Justice Circle work?

We ask the women to write and present to the group answers to questions like:

  • Discuss your responsibility for the crime committed and the harm caused.

  • What do you need to do to repair the harm you have caused to victims, family, friends, community?

  • What do you think your victim would say to you? What do you think your victim felt? What would you say to your victim?

The women are able to share because the Circle process – based on values such as respect, honesty, and confidentiality which they honor and hold during their time together – enables mutual trust.

Following the 10 sessions we invite the women to complete an evaluation.

In response to the question, “How have you increased compassion for others in the circle?” one woman responded, “I have learned a lot about where other people have come from. Sometimes they have been through things that you would have never imagined.”

Responding to the question, “What is one way you feel better about yourself after this class?” a woman said, “I feel better by owning up to my part in decisions and mistakes that brought me to prison, no matter how minute they may have been.”

Remarking on the sentence “Name one thing you learned here that will make a big difference” one replied, “My criminal behavior and consequences had more than one victim.” Another stated: “Holding myself … accountable. Before I kinda blamed others a lot.”

Commenting on the statement, “name one way you now feel better about yourself,” One woman responded, “I feel more humble, more like myself again. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

Read “Women’s Stories,” a reflection on the Restorative Justice Circle of Healing by one of the circlekeepers.