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Seventh Grade - Section Three

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

Within Cole Matthews lies anger, rage and hate. Cole has been stealing and fighting for years. This time he caught Peter Driscal in the parking lot and smashed his head against the sidewalk. Now, Peter may have permanent brain damage and Cole is in the biggest trouble of his life.

Cole is offered Circle Justice: a system based on Native American traditions that attempts to provide healing for the criminal offender, the victim, and the community. With prison as his only alternative, Cole plays along. He says he wants to repent, but in his heart, Cole blames his alcoholic mom, his abusive dad, wimpy Peter (everyone but himself) for his situation.

Cole receives a one-year banishment to a remote Alaskan island. There, he is mauled by a mysterious white bear of Native American legend. Hideously injured, Cole waits for death. His thoughts shift from anger to humility. To survive, he must stop blaming others and take responsibility for his life. Rescuers arrive to save Cole's body, but it is the attack of the Spirit Bear that may save his soul.

Ben Mikaelsen paints a vivid picture of a juvenile offender, examining the roots of his anger without absolving him of responsibility for his actions, and questioning a society in which angry people make victims of their peers and communities. TOUCHING SPIRIT BEAR is a poignant testimonial to the power of a pain that can destroy, or lead to healing.

http://www.benmikaelsen.com/books_touchingspiritbear.html
Circle Justice


A sentencing circle is a community-directed process, conducted in partnership with the criminal justice system, to develop consensus on an appropriate sentencing plan that addresses the concerns of all interested parties. Sentencing circles - sometimes called peacemaking circles - use traditional circle ritual and structure to involve the victim, victim supporters, the offender, offender supporters, judge and court personnel, prosecutor, defense counsel, police, and all interested community members. Within the circle, people can speak from the heart in a shared search for understanding of the event, and together identify the steps necessary to assist in healing all affected parties and prevent future crimes.

Sentencing circles typically involve a multi-step procedure that includes: (1) application by the offender to participate in the circle process; (2) a healing circle for the victim; (3) a healing circle for the offender; (4) a sentencing circle to develop consensus on the elements of a sentencing plan; and (5) follow-up circles to monitor the progress of the offender. The sentencing plan may incorporate commitments by the system, community, and family members, as well as by the offender. Sentencing circles are used for adult and juvenile offenders with a variety of offenses and have been used in both rural and urban settings. Specifics of the circle process vary from community to community and are designed locally to fit community needs and culture.

Sentencing circles have been developed most extensively in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Yukon and have been used occasionally in several other communities. Their use spread to the United States in 1996 when a pilot project was initiated in Minnesota.


http://www.nij.gov/topics/courts/restorative-justice/promising-practices/sentencing-cricles.htm
 About Ben:

Author Ben Mikaelsen, has won the International Reading Association Award and the Western Writer's Golden Spur Award. In addition, his novels have won many state Reader's Choice awards. These novels include Rescue Josh McGuireSparrow Hawk RedStranded, CountdownPetey,Touching Spirit BearRed MidnightTree Girl and Ghost of Spirit Bear. His novels, Rescue Josh McGuirePetey and Touching Spirit Bearhave also been optioned for screen use.

Ben's articles and photos have appeared in numerous magazines around the world. His novels have been carried by Scholastic and Troll book fairs, and are recorded on unabridged audio tape with recorded books. Recently Ben was featured nationally on Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures and also on German national TV.

Ben lives in a log cabin near Bozeman, Montana, with a 750 pound black bear that he adopted and has raised for the last twenty five years.


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