Inspired by ancient indigenous circle practices, the process uses best practice from 30 years of theory and research into Restorative Justice to create circles in which the individuals involved in a conflict and members of their respective communities meet as equals. The intention of the circle is to repair harm caused, restore a sense of justice and reintegrate all to peaceful co-existence using guided dialogue that empowers, heals, connects and facilitates action, both individual and collective, for mutual benefit. It has been pioneered by Dominic Barter, consultant and training program director to the UN Development Program and UNESCO for the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education and Special Secretariat for Human Rights' pilot projects in Restorative Justice in Brazil. In 2005, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice asked Dominic to initiate pilot projects in shanty towns, schools shelters, youth courts and prisons to test this practice in some of the toughest social conditions. Dominic has since trained thousands of adults and youth to set up non-punitive responses to conflict and facilitate restorative circles. As the authorities have begun to understand that restorative circles are real world alternatives to both punishment and impunity, the model has been spreading fast. For example, Brazilâ€™s southernmost state Rio Grande do Sul has requested training in both Restorative practices and Nonviolent Communication for the 50 cities with the highest recorded levels of violence. The project brings together the departments of health, education and security for the first ever state-wide, coordinated program to promote community safety. The SÃ£o Paulo state education department, after evaluating the pilot project begun in September 2006, has requested the program be extended beyond the initial 32 schools and 3 youth court systems, beginning immediately. University students and community leaders will join those who facilitate Circles, helping to meet increased demand. Sao Paulo, the worldâ€™s 6th largest city, with over 19 million inhabitants, has been offering an experimental Restorative Circles track for all youth offenders living in HeliÃ³polis - the cityâ€™s largest favela (shantytown) - since late 2006. Now the legal authorities have extended the program to cover all youth crime in the city, creating an RJ track that connects schools, police and judges in a restorative system.
Source: Scilla Elworthy psy.sec or how psychological security can be the most effective route to peace, June 2008