Colorado State University

Restorative Justice Case Study

Note: all names have been changed.

Scott was a junior at CSU. He and some friends had been drinking together and were walking to a house party near campus. On the way there, one stomped on a sprinkler head on CSU grounds. Scott followed this action by kicking another sprinkler head, which immediately broke causing water to gush out. A witness flagged down a nearby police officer who found and cited Scott with 2nd degree criminal mischief.

When the facilitator met with Scott he seemed very embarrassed by his behavior. He had not been in legal trouble before and said that his family was very upset with him. He said he had younger brothers who looked up to him and worried about the bad example he had set. He and his father had always been very close, but now his father was angry and disappointed.

The facilitators accepted Scott into the restorative justice program and contacted the courts who provided him with diversion where his charges would be dismissed upon successful completion of the process. Facilitators were also able to reach the director of irrigation and the grounds manager who agreed to participate in the conference process. Scott also asked his father, Tony, to be present.

During the conference, Scott took responsibility for his actions and expressed remorse for what he had done. The two CSU staff seemed to believe Scott was sincere and were quick to accept his apology. They were impressed that he was willing to meet with them face to face. They explained the pride they took in maintaining CSU’s appearance for students, staff, and visitors. Scott learned that they were short staffed and the sprinkler, broken months ago, had still not been repaired. It was determined that one of Scott’s restorative agreement items would be volunteering for 20 hours with CSU facilities to help take care of the grounds. They talked about taking the time to teach him how to repair the broken sprinkler.

Perhaps the most powerful part of the conference came in the interactions between Scott and his father, Tony. The first time Tony had the opportunity to share his perspective and experiences, he repeatedly emphasized how disappointed he was in his son. He shared that he felt like he could no longer trust Scott and was worried about his future. These words seemed painful for Scott to hear, and he hunched over and stared at the ground as his father talked. However, as the conference went on and Tony’s attitude towards his son shifted. He seemed pleased by the actions Scott was willing to take to make a positive contribution to campus, and relieved that the CSU staff members weren’t holding a grudge. Tony started to acknowledge some of the positive things Scott had done since the incident. At the end of the conference, after everyone but the facilitator had left, he told Scott he was proud of him and he had made the very best of this situation. Scott looked as if a heavy weight had been lifted off his shoulders. For the facilitators, the conference illustrated how even low level crime can have big emotional impacts, and demonstrated the power restorative justice processes to help rebuild trust and restore connection.