Domestic Violence Restorative Circles

In Duluth alone there are approximately 1,300 emergency calls to 911 and nearly 400 arrests relating to domestic violence annually. The Department of Corrections released approximately 74 domestic violence offenders into St. Louis County last year and NERCC released 92 offenders with DV related charges. The top cause of recidivism is perpetration of another act of domestic violence during the reentry process, speaking to the need for intervention and reentry services that reach offenders before they are released.

The Domestic Violence Reentry Circles (DVRC) Program was developed out of discussions among a variety of systems practitioners and advocacy organizations in Duluth, MN. Probation, prosecution, defense, a judge, the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Men as Peacemakers, victim advocates, and researchers from the University of Minnesota Duluth came together to discuss gaps in the criminal justice system regarding working with repeat domestic violence offenders where traditional methods of intervention haven’t worked in the past. From the discussions the DVRC Program was developed.

The DVRC Program philosophy is threefold: holding offenders accountable for their actions, honoring victim safety and autonomy, and supporting both the victim and offender as they transition to healthier lives. Offenders participate in Transition circles made up of community volunteers who start circles while incarcerated and continue circles as offenders are re-entering the community. Transition circles work to develop a contract that is adopted into the offender’s court and probation for steps to repair the harm and continue growing healthier, respectful, nonviolent lives. Support circles for victims are made up of community volunteers and provide opportunities to discuss past violence, healing and growth. Both Transition and Support circles are tailored to individual’s unique situations and explore creative methods to reach participant’s goals.

The Circle process is a specific and intensive approach to batterers. Transition Circles focus on holding an offender accountable for the violence committed while providing the social support necessary for the offender to change their thinking and behavior. The Transition Circle process also provides the opportunity to identify radiating issues and other factors that may exacerbate the violence including family history of violence, chemical dependency, mental illness, sexism, and socialization. The offender is connected to community resources that can help reduce the impact those factors will have on future behavior.  Actively involving community members in the Circle process helps connect offenders with people who will provide support and accountability.

MAP has designed these circles with local domestic violence organizations to help increase victim safety and involve the community in creating greater accountability and potential for change for domestic violence offenders.  In the past year: 

  • 13 victims were offered resources through the circle
  • MAP received 23 Total Offender Referrals
  • 100 estimated community members connected to offenders and victims including family, friends and children impacted by this program
  •  6 people served as Support for offenders or victims in their circle
  •  74 volunteers participated in the process (duplicated)

MAP's Partners on this Project Include:The Duluth Domestic Violence Sentencing Circles Steering Committee. The steering committee members include: St. Louis County Chief Judge Shaun Floerke, public defenders, probation staff, County Attorneys, Safe Haven Shelter for Battered Women, Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Men as Peacemakers and faculty from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.