The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 1, 2002

Opinions



Restorative Justice Circle is coming

Let's call it a second chance. As Jean Bell, one of the coordinators of Concord's successful Restorative Justice Circle explains it, it's an alternative to charging in court young offenders who have broken the law.

A group of Carlisle volunteers who have trained in the Restorative Justice Circle program in Concord have been meeting and will begin using the Restorative Justice system in Carlisle. Volunteers include organizer Kathy Rubenstein, Ellen Huber, Barbara Howland and Cindy Nock. The group, which has the support of Police Chief Dave Galvin (see Letters to the Editor), is eager to recruit more community volunteers who would be interested in participating in the program.

How does the Restorative Justice Circle work? When the police believe that an offender can be helped to understand the harm done by a crime committed, and the victims of the crime are willing to confront the perpetrator, then the case can be referred to the Restorative Justice Circle.

Through the Restorative Circle, the offenders are encouraged to find a way to make amends to those whom they have harmed. The victims, on the other hand, are supported and given a chance to confront the person or persons who harmed them and express their wishes on how they should be compensated. Trained community volunteers facilitate the Circle process that includes the victims, offenders, parents when appropriate, community members and a police officer. All work together to come up with a fair and satisfactory resolution to the offense.

In Concord, where the Restorative Justice Circle has been used since January 2001, five out of the six cases referred in its first 18 months of operation were successfully resolved. Numbers involved included as offenders, 8 boys and 3 girls (ages 12 to 18); as parents of offenders, 20; as victims, 22; as community volunteers, 26; as referring police officers, 6.

The types of offenses that the Concord Circle dealt with included vandalism (graffiti), trespassing plus vandalism, a computer stolen from a public building, bomb threats to a public building, drive-by "shooting" with a cap gun, and unauthorized use of a credit card. Of the 11 offenders who have been through the Circle process, as of July 2002, nine have had no further contact with the police department; two of them have.

A two-day training workshop dealing with underage drinking, which was scheduled for last weekend, was canceled but will be rescheduled in November. It will provide information regarding drinking laws in the state and prepare Circle members to engage victims and violators in a process that is expected to be useful in resolving youth drinking problems.

In Concord, prospective volunteers were interviewed and trained in Restorative Justice Circle principles and then serve as facilitators for the program. Bell reported that volunteers in Concord were easily found. They are a diverse group in age, gender, and experience, and include a retired school principal, a retired school superintendent, several schoolteachers, and a school nurse.

Who could oppose a program like this where the perpetrator of a crime has the opportunity to examine the consequences of his or her actions and the victim has the chance to confront the perpetrator? Together, with support from Restorative Justice system volunteers, they can reach consensus on how to repair the damage done.

Yes, I'd call this a second chance. Instead of going through the court system where an offense is listed on the offender's record, the perpetrator has a chance to understand the reasons that led to the crime and work toward changing his or her behavior in the future.

If you are interested in joining the Restorative Circle program in Carlisle, call Kathy Rubenstein at 1-978-369-6947.



One scary night

I got a terrible fright the other night. I thought I was immune to these kind of things after lo these many years, but apparently not. Here's what happened.

I had just finished dinner when a strange raspy noise began emanating from the family room. I walked in to check it out and sensed something unearthly off to my right. Quickly I whirled and saw one of the most horrifying visages ever imagined. That's when I passed out cold.

After a few minutes, my wife came into the room. Assuming I'd fallen asleep on the floor, she nudged me in the ribs with her foot. I regained consciousness slowly, then glanced at the TV behind her and gave a startled shout. "What's that?" I cried, eyes bugging out of my head.

"What are you talking about?" she said. "It's just the gubernatorial debates."

"Yes, I know," I said, still shaking. "But who's that with the giant headlight glasses, sputtering on about bureaucratic waste and kooks everywhere? Man, I haven't heard anything that incomprehensible since Boris Karloff played the Mummy."

Before she had a chance to tell me about Barbara Johnson, though, the camera swung to the next candidate, sending another jolt through my nervous system. "It's Lurch," I warbled, "Or at least his wife."

"Calm down," my wife said with some exasperation. "That's only Carla Howell, although I have to admit her ideas on guns are about as unnerving as Lurch."

It was true, too. Here was a legitimate, though minor, gubernatorial candidate promoting the daily packing of a rod alongside your wallet, even on airplanes. Her unbridled gun advocacy would be enough to scare Wolfman bald. I can just picture air travel in Carla-world: "This is your captain speaking. We've reached cruising altitude. You may now remove the safeties from your pistols and tell the fat guy next to you to get his damn elbows back on his side of the armrest or else. Have a safe flight."

As I listened to the debate a bit longer, though, I realized that the really terrifying thing about these two fringe candidates is not that their ideas are so wacky, but that they make Mitt Romney seem positively mainstream. I mean, next to guns-everywhere policies, and proposals to axe the income tax entirely, Mitt's claim that he'll cut several billion dollars in waste and duplication from the state budget — not to mention his boast to personally lure tens of thousands of new jobs to the state through persuasion alone — seems almost reasonable.

Of course, Mitt's in for his own hair-raising encounter when Tom Finneran tells him he'll have to fly coach, dine at Denny's and bed down in Motel 6 when gallivanting around the country on his job-creation quest.

And speaking of Mitt, was it chilling to see Shannon O'Brien's petty attacks on Mitt melt as quickly as a wet witch? Does her performance give you any confidence that she'd stand up to Finneran's iron-fisted control of the state's budget? Or is it more likely that she'll ask him to please speak nicely about her and maybe raise the governor's salary when he has time?

Which brings us to eerily normal Jill Stein. Saddled with nothing but well-thought-out ideas, she's totally lost in this horror movie of a campaign. Her only chance to get back into this frightful excuse for a political race is to raise her profile quickly by confessing that her real name is not "Jill" but "Franken," then encourage everyone to vote for the only person on the ballot with the power to scare Tom Finneran: Dr. Franken Stein.

Carlisle Comments In defense of towers

I was appalled to hear someone was trying to block a wind energy project in Nantucket Sound because (among other reasons) the towers, six miles out to sea, would be an eyesore. To put this into perspective, a 200-foot tower six miles away appears as big as a matchstick 12 feet away. Actually, a modern windmill farm is beautiful from any distance. From far away, it is a little collection of propellers softened by the haze. Nearby, the pylons with their slowly turning blades are majestic as they churn out the ultimate in clean energy.

Are big city skylines beautiful? Judging by how many you see on picture postcards, many people must think so. I do — my family's vacation home is in a large city and the view of downtown from the third floor windows is spectacular.

If you hike to the top of a small New England mountain, you may find a lattice lookout tower. The intricate pattern of diagonal beams and the zigzag stairway are endlessly fascinating and beautiful. It doesn't mar the landscape — it's a tool which helps us enjoy the view.

When driving around, you occasionally see a cell tower poking up above the trees. It's an appealing sight, with its funny rows of rectangular antennas. It provides an interesting and welcome counterpoint to the endless trees of New England. Do I want one in my backyard? Yes, please, as soon as possible!

 


2002 The Carlisle Mosquito