In the Yukon, an innovative program is bringing a traditional form of Aboriginal justice--circle sentencing--to the Canadian justice system. Sentencing circles don't focus on punishment. Instead, they bring together the perpetrator of a crime, his or her victims, and peers and family in an effort to bring healing to the community.
For many Aboriginal men in the North, going to jail was a natural extension of attending missionary-run schools. Brothers Harold and Phil Gatensby, who have both done their share of jail time, now participate in circles as a way to allow offenders to break the cycle of crime, court and prison. The program works so well that Aboriginals from the Yukon have helped set up similar programs elsewhere in Canada and in the US. The circle is a powerful alternative to prison terms imposed by courts--not only for Aboriginal people in the North but, potentially, for all communities.