Circles and Restorative Justice
A justice circle is a community directed process, which is conducted in partnership with the criminal justice system. It is used to develop consensus on an appropriate sentencing plan that addresses the concerns of all interested parties. Within the circle people can speak from the heart in a shared search for understanding of the event. Together people identify the steps necessary to assist in healing of all affected parties and prevent future crimes.Circles at the Benedict Center are used primarily in conjunction with Milwaukee Municipal Court as an alternative dispositions for women with charges of prostitution and outstanding warrants.FocusOur Community Justice Circles will challenge:
- The destructive effects of poverty on neighborhoods where lack of family sustaining jobs, mental health and drug treatment services, and safe housing contribute to an environment which promotes street prostitution as an option.
- Traditional responses to the problem — police sweeps, arrests, and incarceration — which do nothing to resolve the problems of the neighborhood, the solicitor or the solicited. The aforementioned actions disparately sanction the woman.
- Charging and sentencing disparities by gender.
- Misperceptions about why women prostitute.
- Indifference to community deterioration and economic decline.
- Society's inability to deal with sexual issues and damaging relationships.The Benedict Center justice circles are guided by the principles of restorative justice. Restorative justice views crime as primarily an offense against human relationships, and secondarily a violation of law. Restorative justice brings together the community, victim and offender to reduce the harm done to all by the offender’s crime.