Addressing Vandalism with Restorative Conferencing
Updated: Aug 17, 2019
Two 20-year old males were charged with defacing The Bean in Millennium Park in Chicago on Monday, July 1st; several other youth were charged with misdemeanors relating to this incident as well. Too many other crimes have been committed in the city involving youth, often gang related. These situations call for a restorative solution best effected by a group process often referred to as a Family Group Conference. Offenders must admit to their "wrongdoing" - a restorative term for any hurtful act - and voluntarily agree to participate at the request of victims - those who have been wronged. Supporters of both sides are encouraged to join the circle, led by a trained facilitator.
This is an unusual situation in which the victim is not an individual but the city and all those who appreciate and enjoy The Bean. Would be interesting to see who might show up to support the youth involved in these crimes!? The conference process allows everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts and questions relating to the wrongdoing, starting with victims sharing how the incident impacts them and often asking why the perpetrator did what they did? After the offender responds, each group of supporters has an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings. In the end, all those who have participated have an opportunity to suggest reasonable and meaningful consequences for the offender.
Restorative practices allow those who have been harmed to address their offenders directly and personally, offering more relief and possible closure than the usual retributive courtroom procedure. Offenders are held accountable more effectively and often access remorse because they have an opportunity to observe those they have harmed more closely and to hear firsthand how their actions have adversely impacted their victims. Our retributive criminal justice system removes the power from those most directly involved in the criminal situations and focuses on punishment which is not as effective a deterrent to negative behavior as a system which fosters greater understanding of why that act was carried out and the personal damage it caused. Consequences which require the offender to offer restitution to victims in turn often motivates him or her to think more carefully about what they have done and leads to decreased chances of repeating those acts.