It’s a lot like a talking circle. Everybody gets a chance to talk without interruption. It’s done in a respectful way. It’s confidential.Oglala Sioux tribe Attorney General Rae Ann Red Owl • Discussing the South Dakota tribe’s unusual method of sentencing people convicted of crimes in the community. In the sentencing circle, people involved in the case — including prosecutors, police, victims, relatives and others with an interest in the suspect’s punishment — get to talk about their issues with the case, allowing the offender to get a punishment tailored to their specific situation. It takes time (the first test case, which originated in Family and Child Court, started in February) and some worry about the surfacing victims’ dark memories, but Red Owl hopes that the sentencing method better holds community members accountable and encourages a form of justice that helps the community at large. A very fascinating test.
» The controversy is, for now, dead: State Rep. Phil Jensen’s bill would have added the protection of an unborn fetus to the qualifications for “justifiable homicide.” Jensen insisted it had “nothing to do with abortion,” which frankly renders him either phenomenally disingenuous, or utterly politically tone-deaf. If he wants his legal tweak to go through, all he needs to do is add, “but you can’t murder medical practitioners who perform abortions” and he’s be set. And yet, apparently adding such an amendment was bother enough that he’d rather the whole bill, which he claims is about protecting women from domestic violence, be shelved. Seems like a morally dubious decision if you’re really out to protect battered women, doesn’t it? If that is, as he says, what this is all about.