Restorative justice in the community
Sep 14, 2011
Michael was 16. He was an angry kid. He spent most of his days just “hanging out” around the neighborhood. One day, Michael was “hanging out” in a small Lancaster grocery store. While he was in the store, Michael pulled a cigarette lighter out of his pocket, lit the corners of a few boxes on the shelves and watched as the flames spread. Then he ran away.
The fire caused $1500 worth of damage.
Michael got caught, and he was sent to juvenile court.
If we think about how the traditional criminal justice system would have most likely handled this, Michael would probably have been charged with arson (a felony), possibly charged as an adult, and likely would have been sent to juvenile detention or jail for some period of time. After coming out of detention or jail, having a felony record would have affected the rest of Michael’s life in numerous ways.
Luckily, the juvenile court judge who heard Michael’s case knew about restorative justice and LAVORP. So he referred Michael’s case to LAVORP. A LAVORP mediator met first with the store owner, a man named Mr. Good (yep, that’s his real name – a very common Lancaster County surname!), to learn how the fire had impacted him and to ask what he needed to address the harm.
Then the LAVORP mediator met with Michael, to talk with him about his actions and determine whether Michael was willing to be accountable for what he had done.
In these separate meetings, the mediator also asked both Mr. Good and Michael whether they would be willing to meet face to face to talk about how to “set things right.” Both agreed, so the mediator brought them together.