Student Made Threat, Faced Felony, Found Redemption In Restorative Justice
Poking fun at millennials is easy.
Posting a comment on Snapchat about millennials eating Tide Pods is funny.
Posting a comment on Snapchat that millennials will shoot up a school is not funny.
Not only was it not funny for a local high school student who made the threat earlier this year, he learned he was staring down the barrel of being a convicted felon.
"I sent a Snapchat on social media, and it was saying, 'mark millenials eating Tide Pods and shooting up the school' was really wrong," he said after speaking recently to the Natrona County School District board of trustees. (Because he is a juvenile, K2 Radio agreed to honor the family's desire for his anonymity.)
Social media is, well, social and it was only a matter of time before he got caught.
He already had been getting bad grades and making bad decisions, but he couldn't ignore the consequences of the errant Snapchat post, he said. "I had this felony hanging over my head"
But he had an option to make things right through the three-year-old Restorative Justice program that works through the Casper Police Department.
"Everyone makes mistakes, and to go through that program really helped me and it turned my life around," he said.
Part of his participation in the Restorative Justice program required him to talk to the trustees. He also would be speaking to a group of fifth-grade students about the potential problems with social media.
But in general, Miner said the Restorative Justice philosophy is about the relationships that comprise the fabric of a community. "When there's a tear, we need to go back and try to sew it up as best as we can and in the most healthy way possible."
It's not about shaming the offender, but to show how their decisions affected the victim. Others may be affected, too, such as the victim's family and neighbors, Miner said.
Miner has said this does not minimize the need for punishment of people who violate others' persons and properties. Some victims do not wish to participate in the Restorative Justice program and want the matter settled in court, she added.
The participation starts with a determination whether Restorative Justice can be applied to a particular offense, and whether the offender wants to volunteer, she said. "They have to want to do it for the right reasons."
Miner, whose office operates through the Casper Police Department, does an intake procedure with the offender; and if the offender is a juvenile a parent will attend, she said.
She then conducts pre-conferences with the offender and parent, and the victim or victims depending on the case, Miner said.
The final step is known as the "final conference," or the "circle process" with the offender, his or her parents, the victim or victims, a school official, a law enforcement officer, a counselor and others, Miner said. "Every case is different."
During that final conference, all parties agree to a contract for the offender, she said. "And that's where we can come up with real creative ways for that person to make direct amends or reparations to their community or to their victim."
The reparations can be financial restitution; community service projects relevant to the specific offense; "reflection letters" in which the offender writes to the school, victim or parents; using a skill to make something for the victim; or repairing something they damaged, Miner said.
"The process really highlights those impacts for our kids and helps them gain that deeper understanding," she said.