A mother contacted us sounding extremely troubled. She told us that a police officer had contacted her informing she had to pay $1500 for a door that her sons had damaged. He also told her that her sons may be charged for attempting to break into a premises. It sounded rather odd that a police officer would be asking for restitution, but the situation was much clearer after we contacted him.
He told us that footage from closed circuit television had showed these boys damaging the door of the Residents’ Committee (RC) office and a member of the RC had filed a police report for an attempted break-in. The RC had approached a contractor to repair the door and they were quoted $1500. He was simply keeping the mother updated of the situation following her sons’ arrest. He also clarified that the boys have yet to be charged in court and if they were to be, they will be charged for mischief and not attempted break-in.
The officer kindly listened to us as we advocated for a restorative problem-solving process that will enable the boys to make amends and importantly to put in place care arrangements that will reduce the possibility of them reoffending. After hearing us out, he gave us the contact details of a RC member and told us to ask the RC if they were willing to work with us in resolving the issue as we had proposed. He added that he will be monitoring the outcome of our discussion, especially the compensation for damages so that he can keep the Attorney General’s Chamber updated accordingly.
This week we explained to members of the RC that restorative problem-solving encouraged responsibility and accountability as it provided an opportunity for the wrong doer to put things right. It also gave those affected a voice to express their needs and with regards to this incident, it would provide a context for the RC to foster a mutually positive relationship with 2 young residents. The RC was open to giving it a try but were wary that it may be too lenient a process if the the boys had offended previously. Nonetheless, they fully believed that the family of the boys had to be supported with adequate resources if they were to care for the boys well. We were touched and impressed that they wanted to look beyond the incident and to attend to factors that contributed to the offending.
The boys aged 15 and 14 years old are deeply remorseful and are hoping that they will be given a chance to make amends. Both were on their way to work at 6 am with 2 other friends. It was the school holidays, and they were earning some pocket money working as movers. As a show of bravado, the older brother banged on the door of the RC as he was walking past and the younger one followed suit by kicking it. That evening, the police approached both boys as they hanging out in the neighbourhood and they admitted to the offence immediately.
Incidents like this no matter how minor create a climate of distrust within a neighbourhood and reinforce stereotypes that drive a wedge in the socially integrated society we want to live in. Our effort at introducing a restorative problem-solving approach is not just in the interest of helping young people to learn and mature but in bringing about a more peaceable way of life where our actions build positive relationships and caring communities.
Wishing you good health and peace of mind.
There are no neutral actions; in every moment we either drain or give life – Brennan Manning