Documentary film in progress www.circleupdoc.com
Janet Connors’ son Joel was murdered by four young men on a tragic winter night. She sat in the courtroom, a muted spectator, as the trials devolved into slander and theatre. Three of the men made a plea agreement but the main perpetrator – the man who stabbed an 18” knife into Joel’s heart – walked free on “reasonable doubt.”
Janet realized she needed to make her own justice.
She sought out two of the men who killed her son. But instead of seeking vengeance, she looked for humanity. She fought the bureaucracy to become the first person in Massachusetts to hold a victim-offender dialogue through the corrections system. When the murderers were released from prison, she called them to her son’s grave.
“The only way to make up for the life you have stolen is to live yours in a good way," she said.
They did what she asked. Janet now works with judges and prosecutors to divert young people from the criminal justice system and into restorative justice circles, where they are held accountable while being supported by the community. She draws support from other mothers of homicide victims who are struggling to turn tragedy into something positive. Learning from Native American elders, Janet begins to incorporate traditional peacemaking circle practices into her work.
Janet has even engaged one of her son’s murderers to counsel young people on how to improve their lives. Circle follows their shared commitment as this Boston community heals and “circles up” around other kids in trouble.