Offenders, victims resolve their own cases
Oct 29, 2009
Zane Wells, 22, drank too much one night at El Rancho. In a stupor, he kicked a door and caused about $300 in damage.
He was arrested for criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. But instead of letting the courts resolve the case, he was selected to participate in a victim-offender mediation program, where he could apologize to the business owners and hash out a mutual resolution.
At first, bar owners Chip and Chris Lile were reluctant to participate in such a program. They felt victimized by Wells’ actions and wanted the courts to enact justice.
“My thoughts were, it was a way for somebody to avoid trouble with the courts and get out of what they did,” Chip Lile said.
But after some consideration, the Lile brothers agreed to hear what Wells had to say, and maybe save a customer. Wells hadn’t been in trouble with the law before, and he seemed truly remorseful, Chip Lile said.
“I hope what we did was hold someone accountable for their actions and give them a chance to make things right,” he said.
Victim-offender mediation, also called restorative justice, is gaining momentum in La Plata County.
The program allows victims and offenders to meet in a safe and structured environment to discuss what happened and develop a plan to right the wrong. The “punishment” usually involves the offender paying restitution and performing community service.