LETTER: The saga of a joke taken too far

First-hand experience with the restorative justice program, and lessons learned.

The restorative justice process requires that responsible persons (offenders) accept responsibility for their actions and actively seek to make amends with those they have affected (victims). The following essay is an outcome of a restorative justice conference with the Nelson police restorative justice program.

 

Pranks are always fun until they get taken too far. I learned that although it is fun to make jokes and goof around with friends, there are always consequences to consider.

Earlier this year, a friend and I came on a vacation to Ainsworth Hot Springs. While driving around one day in Nelson, we saw an “8th St.” sign that we thought would be cool to have in a bar back in our home town. At the time, the thought of taking the signs was nothing more than a joke.

After numerous laughs and comments about the idea, we headed over and took two signs down in the middle of the night. A witness from the neighborhood reported us and we were later arrested by Nelson Police Department. We were charged with mischief as well as theft and were ordered to appear in court.

My friend and I were fortunate enough to be referred to the restorative justice program. By participating, I had the opportunity to formally introduce myself to some of those affected by our actions. They included: the arresting officer, the manager of public works, and a city councillor. One affected person who chose not to attend the meeting was the witness who reported us taking the signs.

Having the witness choose not to attend the restorative justice conference to meet with us made me feel really sad and disappointed in myself. I realized that I had done more than mischief; I had really affected people in a negative way, and this made me deeply upset.

Through the restorative justice program, I learned that there are consequences when pranks are taken too far. More people than I had initially considered were affected by our actions including: the witness, the Nelson community (particularly that neighborhood), the police officer, and my parents.

I now understand that by taking the signs, I violated safety and security for people in that neighborhood. We took up precious time of the officer when he could have been doing much more important policing. And we wasted the resources of the public works staff for the replacement of the signs. All these people were affected by a senseless prank.

Personally, the restorative justice program was a big eye opener. There were significant consequences I could have faced had we gone to court. Having a criminal record would have really affected my future as I plan on travelling to numerous places and building a career in marketing. I now consider limits to jokes, and how they can affect others. I strongly advise friends to think before they follow through with any pranks.

There can be huge consequences out there that can affect the rest of your life because you made a bad decision. I found the restorative justice program to be a valuable opportunity to apologize appropriately for my poor decision, address and repair the harm caused, as well as a vital learning experience.

Name withheld

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