Restorative Justice in Lancaster County - LAVORP at Work

I’m going to wrap up this multi-post series on restorative justice in action with another LAVORP story . . . and a call to action.

First, the story:

Vicente Ramos had nearly everything ready for his group’s upcoming mission trip to Central America. He and others from a nonprofit organization called CareForce had purchased and refurbished an old school bus and were about to load it up with medical supplies to take to poverty-stricken communities in Honduras.

But the teenage boys who climbed into the back of the old bus one early summer day didn’t know that. All they knew was that the school year was over and they were going to celebrate with a little bonfire, burning the year’s homework assignments, research papers and notebooks.

The bonfire quickly grew out of control. The teenagers ran. The bus was destroyed.

It’s the kind of story that might show up on the six o’clock news or in the local newspaper, the kind that might have people saying, “I hope they catch whoever did this and bring them to justice. Teach them a lesson.”

The boys did get caught – and were sent to the juvenile court judge.

We can imagine what could have happened next. Our traditional criminal justice system would probably have charged those boys with arson, a felony. They might have been sent to a juvenile detention center or even been sentenced to some time in jail. They would have had a criminal record. Their lives, and that of their families would likely have been negatively affected for many years to come.

And Mr. Ramos and CareForce would have been left fearful and suspicious of teenagers, wondering what kinds of fences and walls they might need to build to protect themselves against another such crime.

Luckily, the juvenile court judge knew about LAVORP’s restorative justice program and the judge referred the case to LAVORP.

After having separate meetings with the boys and their parents, and with Mr. Ramos, a LAVORP mediator brought the boys, their parents and Mr. Ramos together.

The boys got to hear directly from Mr. Ramos about how devastating their actions had been to CareForce and, more importantly, to the people in Honduras who now would not receive the medicine they so desperately needed.

Mr. Ramos got to hear the boys talk about how sincerely and truly sorry they were. The boys had never intended for this to happen. They just didn’t think about the consequences. They never imagined their end-of-school celebration would turn to tragedy.

The boys’ parents had the chance to see their sons experience healing and reconciliation while still being held accountable for their actions.

Together, the boys, their parents and Mr. Ramos all agreed on a plan for how the boys could make things right with Mr. Ramos. The boys offered to work and save money to help Mr. Ramos purchase another bus. The boys also met with fire department officials to learn about the devastation of fires.

Mr. Ramos invited the boys to come and work side by side with him and his volunteers at the CareForce warehouse to prepare the next shipment of clothing and supplies to send to Central America.

Several of the parents of those boys, after seeing how healing and positive the restorative justice process was for everyone involved, signed on to become LAVORP mediators themselves.

And through LAVORP’s restorative justice program, out of the ashes of that awful day have come redemption and reconciliation – for the boys, their families, and Mr. Ramos.

Now before that Call to Action that I promised, here are a few factoids about LAVORP:

  • LAVORP has been serving the Lancaster County community since 1995, handling on average 300 cases every year, for incidents involving over 800 victims and offenders, and utilizing ALL VOLUNTEER MEDIATORS.
  • Agreements between victims and offenders in LAVORP cases have a 95% fulfillment rate.
  • Youth working with LAVORP have a low recidivism rate of only 17%. (the national recidivism rate for offenders who go through the traditional criminal justice system is 60-65%). LAVORP’s excellent track record in reducing recidivism among juvenile offenders keeps ALL of us Lancaster Countians SAFER!
  • LAVORP’s restorative justice programs save Lancaster County taxpayers over $150,000 every year as a highly effective alternative to sending these cases through the traditional criminal justice system.

So, about that Call to Action: If you care about the youth of Lancaster County, and about the safety and security of our neighborhoods, please take a moment to do at least TWO, but preferably SEVERAL of these things:

1. Go to LAVORP’s Facebook page and click “LIKE.” It will only take you a nanosecond (I promise!) And yes, I know it may sound silly and trivial, but they’re working very hard to make their work more visible across Lancaster County, which helps them to get more support to continue that work. Facebook is one important avenue for them to do that.

2. Forward this story to at least five other people you know who may be interested in knowing about LAVORP’s work. To make it easy, use the “LIKE” or “SEND” buttons below.

3. Consider becoming part of LAVORP’s 1-2-5 Society.

4. Make a tax-deductible financial contribution to continue the important work of LAVORP (a 501c3) through their secure, online donations page.

5. Consider becoming a LAVORP mediator. Contact Ken Nissley or Jon Singer at (717) 397-2404. The next LAVORP mediator training class begins October 11, 2011. Or you can get information about becoming a mediator at their website here

Not convinced yet about supporting the work of LAVORP? Go read this additional story of a real LAVORP case. Then decide which of the above action steps to take! And thanks!

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: city life lancaster pa restorative justice peace criminal justice

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