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Swift County Restorative Practices

Swift County Restorative Practices Programs use principles and processes from the Peacemaking Circle traditions that emphasize positive relationship building for the health and welfare of Swift County communities, plus restore relationships when harm has occurred, which often involve court ordered Circles.   

 

Mission Statement: 

The Swift County Circle Sentencing mission is to address juvenile crime and social problems in a manner that encourages healing between child, victim, and community.  Through Circle Sentencing, the citizens are empowered to determine the most effective response regarding crimes and social problems involving juveniles.  The goal is to bring peace and justice between involved parties and to reduce recidivism.  Restorative Practices seeks to enhance public safety through the collaboration of criminal justice and other county agencies.  The healing between community, child, and victim helps to reintegrate and support the child and thus strengthen the community.

 

Circle Sentencing Process: 

Circle Sentencing is an alternative to the traditional court process.  Youth who are referred to this program meet in a Circle about twice a month.  A Circle usually consists of 2-3 juveniles, their parents or other support people, several community volunteers, and the restorative practices coordinator.  Harmed parties may also participate if they wish.  As a group, the Circle determines what the youth can do to repair the harm they have caused by the offenses which brought them to court.  This may include community service or restitution, apology letters, or meeting face-to-face with the harmed party to discuss what happened.  Youth are also given goals to deal with other issues they may be struggling with, such as family interactions, school, mental health concerns, or chemical dependency.

 

The Circle process is based upon Native American and aboriginal traditions.  People come together and meet in a literal circle where everyone is given an opportunity to share their perspectives and work together in finding solutions.  A talking piece is often passed around the Circle.  At these times, individuals are allowed to speak only if they are holding the talking piece or are asked a question by the person who does.  This ensures that everyone can talk freely and without interruptions. The talking piece also enhances listening skills.  Values of Circle include respect, equality, compassion, and honesty.

 

Youth remain in the Circle until they meet all of the goals determined by members of the Circle, including the youth. If they complete the program successfully, their charges do not remain on their record.  If participating youth choose to leave the program, they will return to court for sentencing.

 

Youth: 

  • Learn how their behaviors affect others and answer directly to the people they have harmed. 
  • Develop relationships with other adults in the community, who provide them with both support and accountability as they learn to make positive changes in their lives. 
  • Are able to keep a clean criminal record if they complete the program successfully. 
 

Families:

  • Are given support in dealing with potential difficulties they are experiencing, making decisions about appropriate discipline, and improving communication.
 

Harmed Parties:

  • Can share how the crime has affected them.
  • Gain support from other people in the community.
 

Community:

  • Community members are given the opportunity to work together to mentor youth and make our communities safer and healthier.
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