"It is clear that the way to heal society of its violence . . . and lack of love is to replace the pyramid of domination with the circle of equality and respect," Manitonquat, Elder of the Assonet Band of the Wampanoag Nation, has observed. First Nation People have used the Circle as a healing place for community building for centuries. The Medicine Wheel teaching of holding differences within the whole is a way of dialogue that works. In this helpful paperback, three pioneers in the restorative justice movement share their ideas, ideals and practices. Kay Pranis has served as the Restorative Justice Planner for the Minnesota Department of Corrections from 1994 to 2003; Barry Stuart is a retired judge of the Territorial Court of the Yukon and a faculty member of numerous Canadian law schools; and Mark Wedge brings a lifelong knowledge of aboriginal culture and broad experience in both using and training others in peacemaking Circles.
According to the authors, Circles are the best way to educate and train people to respond to hurts and conflicts differently than they have in the past. Here they can develop their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual habits of peacemaking by supporting a process that moves from "coercion to healing, from solely individual to individual and collective accountability, from primary dependence on the state to greater self-reliance within the community, and from justice as 'getting even' to justice as 'getting well.' " This is a constructive way of bringing together offenders, victims, justice professionals, and members of communities to work together on ceremonies of reintegration.
Pranis, Stuart and Wedge discuss the inner and outer frames of Circles with a thorough examination of the key elements of circle-keeping, the talking piece, guidelines, ceremonies, and decision-making by consensus. They also make the necessary point: "Circles aren't about performance or saying the right thing or making a good show. They're not about coming up with 'the answer' and certainly not about getting others to think as we do. They're not about forcing anyone to change. These are all techniques of conquering a situation talking charge and fixing it. Instead, Circles are about getting to the roots of our being, searching our hearts, souls, and truths, and rediscovering the values that help us express how we most want to be." In a time when so many communities are suffering from the wounds of crime, peacemaking circles are needed more than ever as gentle, respectful, and healing forces.
The bibliography at the end of the book is excellent. This is the first volume published by Living Justice Press, a nonprofit publisher which "seeks to increase public awareness of the principles and practice of restorative justice through book publishing and related media channels, thereby fostering a larger rethinking of what justice means in every aspect of our lives from home to school to work to courts of law. We strive to create books that are accessible and useful to individuals, families, and community groups as well as to professionals in the field." We wish them well and look forward to further resources that advance the ideals of living justice in all her beauty and glory.