WILLMAR -- Dave Dorsey is a retired Ridgewater College instructor who has spent two nights of every month for the last five years sitting in a circle in Willmar watching kids slowly change.
"It's a slow process. It's not a quick fix," said Dorsey, who is a volunteer member of the Kandiyohi County community circle-sentencing group that emphasizes restoring justice between juvenile offenders and their victims and community.
Dorsey said the time he spends in the circle is "not a burden. Not a bit." He finds the experience very satisfying, he said.
Volunteers like Dorsey spend a lot of time listening and are "very thorough and very diligent" with their task of helping the juvenile offenders come to terms with themselves. Without being judgmental, the volunteers help the offenders set and meet goals to change their actions and their attitudes, he said.
Dorsey has seen kids "who were afraid of their own shadow" and kids who were cocky come to the circle, and gradually change and take ownership of their misdeeds. "There is remorse," he said, in the hearts of the juvenile offenders.
Keeping the kids honest is a high priority, he said. So is the trust between the volunteers and the offenders.
"The kids are very cautious at first," said Dorsey. "They don't know who we are."
The circle volunteers are business people, farmers, teachers, retired individuals or sometimes an adult who was in trouble as a kid and didn't have someone to listen to him, said Dorsey.
He downplays his personal role in the circle but has seen success come to the kids who stick with the circle and meet their goals. "I'm very proud of them," said Dorsey.