Washington County Community Circles, Inc.
Community members enjoy the Circle process because they have a direct impact on crime in the community. They encourage long term change in behavior and establish relationships with the victim, offender and other community members. The most important aspect is the desire for the offender to be reintegrated and be made to feel a part of the community. It is harder to commit crimes when they have an investment in the community and its members.
Areas of Interest and Service
Washington County Community Circles are a community-directed process most commonly used for addressing issues surrounding local incidents of crime in partnership with the justice system, and create a respectful space to support victims, develop sentencing agreements for offenders, and empower all interested community members to work toward preventing future occurrences of crime. Success would not be possible without the partnering efforts of the City Attorneys, Police Department, Non-Profit Organizations, Washington County Court Services, Washington County Community Corrections and Washington County District Court.
Cases brought to the Circles process go through several steps. There can be separate Circles for victims and offenders, a Sentencing Circle to develop offender sentencing recommendations to be submitted to judges, and follow-up Circles to monitor the progress of offenders or to continue to support victims.
In 1997 several individuals from Canada including Mark Wedge and Harold Gatensby from the First Nations and Judge Barry Stewart from the Crown conducted a training in Minnesota. After the training Washington County began to do Sentencing Circles. In 1998 Judge Gary Schurrer, Maureen Walton from Probation, Judy Brown from Tubman Family Alliance, Diane Elias from Family Links, Mark LaPointe and Kay Longtin, community members in Cottage Grove, went to Carcross, Yukon Territory Canada to receive Circle training. Cottage Grove Circles started after that training with Stillwater starting the following year. In 2006 Woodbury began their Circle. In 2007 these established Circles were incorporated and in 2008 we received our 501(c) (3) exempt status.