Youth apologize to community for graffiti

One of the programs that we administer in partnership with the Jackson County Juvenile Department  is called the Victim Assistance, Youth Accountability (VAYA) program. This program is rooted in the principles of restorative justice – a community response to crime that focuses on addressing the harms done to victims and communities by holding offenders meaningfully accountable for their offenses. According to Cara Walsh, Director of Restorative Justice Programs for Mediation Works.  We  recognize that crime is more than just a violation against the law and state, but also a violation of people and relationships.  Thus, our role in the community is to support youth in being accountable for the harms they caused, provide supportive services to victims of crime, and engage the community in this process, said Walsh.       
They have worked with three boys in their program that were involved in a graffiti incident that took place in Shady Cove last summer. In response they provided the opportunity for community members who were impacted by this event to meet with the boys to give the youth an opportunity to accept responsibility and for the community members to share how this has impacted them, ask any questions, and address the ways in which to make things right.

One of the agreements from this community dialogue was the boys agreeing to write a letter of apology to the community at large to be published in the Upper Rogue Independent. Following are letters from the three boys.

Dear Citizens and Workers of Shady Cove,
I am Silas and I am fifteen years old and I live in Medford, Oregon.  Last year in June myself and my two friends were out walking back to our camp spot and began spray painting and tagging whatever we happened to walk past including walls, signs, fences, and even trees and rocks. 

To be brutally honest I wasn’t thinking at all when we were spray painting the property. I was in the group mentality and I just did what everyone else was doing.  I am not trying to put blame on anyone because it was my fault for taking part in the spray painting when I should have left or let them do it on their own.  The only reason we chose the property we did was because it happened to be in the path in which we were heading on our way back to the campsite- it wasn’t anything personal. 

Only after we had committed our offenses did I begin to realize the severity of my actions. At first it was all fun and games, but then I became aware of how many people I hurt and how much money I may have cost innocent victims for no apparent reason.  Now I truly understand how deeply my actions hurt people that didn’t do anything to deserve their property defaced. 

Since the incident I have opened my eyes to the extent of damage that my actions can and do cause. I would never again pick up spray paint to deface or cause someone harm. It is a very stupid crime. I deeply apologize to anyone and everyone that I hurt with my stupid and childish actions and I hope you can fine it in your heart to forgive me for my actions. 
Sincerely,
Silas

Dear Shady Cove community,
We are two of the offenders that vandalized the town of Shady Cove in June of 2011.   We wish to say how sorry we are for trespassing on your property and making you, the members of the community, unsecure and unsafe.

Because of our actions we had to complete community service by cleaning up trash in our town of Shady Cove. We also met and talked with members of the community, which included two  men from the Boys and Girls Club, two police officers, and a representative from Premier West Bank.

We want to say how sorry we are and hope you won’t feel unsafe. We are trying to make up for our stupidity because we were not thinking about how our actions affected the whole community.  We learned the difference about “being cool” to doing something wrong.  And we know we were very wrong.

We are sincerely sorry for the actions and harm we placed on the town of Shady Cove.
Sincerely,
Johonnis and Wayne

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