As the program director at Full Circle Restorative Justice (FCRJ), a nonprofit organization that strives for a commonsense approach to community justice, part of my work is to facilitate victim-offender conferences that focus on restorative, rather than retributive, means to repair the harm caused by criminal acts.
One of FCRJ’s recent cases involved the vandalism of the Salida middle and high schools. The costly new football turf and stone paths were sprayed with paint, and graffiti was found that was intended to appear as if Buena Vista students were retaliating for the prior graffiti of BVHS by Salida High School students.
Since they are juvenile offenders and SMS and SHS students, confidentiality concerns exist in writing public apologies directly to community newspapers and revealing their full names. Here are their messages:
“Dear Citizens of Salida,
“I realize our schools were graffitied a few months ago impersonating as Buena Vista students, and I would like to take full responsibility and apologize for the damage I caused not only to the schools, but to the citizens as well. I will be doing community service at the schools and will pay a large amount in restitution toward the damage I caused. Thank you for handling this as well as you did.
“Dear Buena Vista Citizens,
“I wanted to apologize for the impersonation of your students and the tagging (graffiti) of the Salida schools. A lot of you are probably very angry about the crime, and I appreciate you handling the situation as well as you did. I am hoping to make it right between us and your community.
“To the Community of Salida,
I am the responsible party who vandalized the Salida school campuses, and I am writing this letter of apology, to hopefully ease tension between the two communities and school districts.
Ever since my friend and I vandalized the school, I have realized what a big deal something like that is. I’ve met many people who were offended by my actions. I simply want to set things straight and hopefully earn some of your respect from the decisions I’m making now.
“I now realize how ignorant and self-centered a decision like that may be. All I can ask is for forgiveness, and the chance to apply the lessons I’ve learned.
“To the Community of Buena Vista,
“I am the responsible party who willingly vandalized the Salida school. Please accept my condolences; I want to take responsibility for my actions. I framed the school in Buena Vista and didn’t realize what I had done until I had done it
“All I ask is for forgiveness from the community of your great town. I have realized the seriousness of the situation and am now trying to set everything straight and fix the damage I have done.
Raven and Joe are paying back a large amount of restitution –incurred during the cleanup and repair of the damage done.
Patty LaTaille, program director,
Full Circle Restorative Justice