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Real-life stories: Property damage

October 28, 2013

Instead, this young man has taken to heart our description of the Restorative Justice process as an opportunity to own up and to “make right”: so far he is unusual in having had nothing but somber and truthful answers to our every question. He’s deeply sorry he did what he did, and he’s made earnest assurances to the staff and to his mom that he’ll never do the same thing again. “I could have killed someone,” he says now and again, shaking his head. We know that these are things that the victim may want to learn when we all get together, but we also know that the victim may ask why the young man and his friends threw rocks that night. That question has this serious, thoughtful boy stumped – this time we aren’t asking for straightforward (or at least relatively factual) information such as how or when, and he genuinely can’t wrap his mind around a reason why.

While the older boy furrows his brow, his younger brother breaks into the pensive moment with a shrug. Full of confidence, he looks straight at us and offers, “It was exciting.” The older boy seems a little confused—he knows his brother is right, but surely something being exciting doesn’t add up to a reason to have done it, especially when it proved to have been so dangerous and to have caused a lot of people so much trouble.

The woman whose car the young man and his friends damaged was very alarmed when the incident happened. We learn more while meeting with her separately in order to hear her perspective and to find out what her needs are when it comes to repairing the harm caused. On the night her car was hit, the victim thought that she was facing serious danger: in the city where she grew up, an attack like this was often a trick to get a person to stop and get out of the car, leaving her vulnerable to robbery or further violence. Yet, despite her initial fear, this victim’s questions and concerns have changed since learning how young the offenders are. She now has no expectation that these boys would have scared her for any other reason than that they were bored and that it was exciting. “I was a kid too,” she explains, adding, “I really just want to talk to them and their parents to find out why they didn’t have anything better to do.” For this victim, it turns out that learning why the young boys behaved as they did is no longer as important as exploring the problem of why they had the opportunity to behave as they did.

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