Back to RJ Archive

Civilizing offenders requires community relationships

July 5, 2009

Late one
night, a bunch of punks armed with a car, a baseball bat and poop for
brains decided to go mailbox smashing. They drove down a street in one
of Vermont’s lovely neighborhoods and took out all the mailboxes as
they cruised. Such a blast.

According to David Karp, a sociology
professor at Skidmore College who was an evaluator of Vermont’s
juvenile justice program, this midnight wilding “was the sort of thing
that might be thought of as a bad juvenile prank. But for one old woman
who came out and found her mailbox smashed, it was a lot more. That
particular day was the first anniversary of her husband’s passing. He
had a workshop and was a craftsman, and this hand-made mailbox was the
last thing he’d made for her. So she was quite upset.”

The kids
were caught and sent as a group to their community restorative panel.
Trained community volunteers listened to each of them tell their
version of the story, admitting to what they’d done. But the justice
system in Vermont strongly urges crime victims to come to the panel
meeting to describe their experience. The old lady came and gave rich,
personal meaning to a mailbox that had just been a plaything to the
boys who’d wrecked it.

Karp said, “The panel meeting between the
offenders and victim was very tearful. The primary impact was the boys’
understanding of what they’d done to the victims.”

Read the whole column.


Blog PostCourtsNorth America and CaribbeanPoliceRJ in SchoolsStatutes and LegislationStoryTeachers and Students
Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now