The first circle experience that Winter and McCreight had was when they were both involved in a community-based restorative justice program that was going on in the area during the late 1990s. It was used to come up with a consensus for punishment or consequence. It was used for less serious crimes and the consequence subject to the approval of a courtroom judge who would have the final say.
The restorative justice program used the circle format to connect the perpetrator of a crime with their actions and register how the actions affected the victim(s).
The kind of circles written about in “Celebration Circles,” however, celebrate experiences and events in people’s lives.
“Celebration Circles” discusses six circle themes: connections, beginnings, discovery, transitions, the journey and the world. Winter and McCreight explain that 50 different kinds of circles can result from those six themes.
The book discusses the why of celebration circles, and then goes
into detail on how to organize the circles. The book suggests that a
circle can consist of 8-12 participants meeting in a circle for one to
two hours, and there can be two to three questions raised during rounds
of the circle.
Why use these circles?
Winter and McCreight explained what they feel are the advantages of these circles. When a group is in a circle, McCreight said, the participants are better able to see everyone. If sitting at a rectangular table, it’s easy to lose eye contact with people, she added.
Also, because of the talking piece rule, people aren’t “talking over each other, interrupting each other, or dominating the conversation,” McCreight said.
The circle is a “respectful place where you are not judged and you are comfortable to express your own view,” McCreight continued. “The other piece is that there is really no hierarchy in a circle, even if you are a judge or a police officer. Everyone’s experience is listened to.”
“It’s a comfortable place for sharing,” Winter agreed.