Playing With Fire |TODAY|
Submitted by dan. on 2007-04-02 22:17.
ichael Rosado says he never meant to start the fire at Amelia's Grocery Outlet. He was 16 when he and a friend were just trying to entertain themselves, he said, while Rosado's mother shopped. When the teens found an opened lighter in the store's hardware department, they played with it for a few minutes before moving to the next aisle.
Through the Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP), Rosado made amends with store owners and went on to study criminal justice. Now a sophomore at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, he wants to earn his master's degree and eventually become an advocate for restorative justice... .
Fire damages at Amelia's totaled about $1,500. More than money, store owner Jeff Good wanted closure. His assistant manager, Tom Parent, had identified Rosado and his friend as suspects, writing their vehicle's license plate information as they left the parking lot. But even after police got the boys to confess their role, Good was still left with unanswered questions.
"The burning question in my mind was, 'Why did you do this? What motivated you to do this?' I thought it was some ulterior motive, maybe with a gang that decides to mark its territory or do some type of initiation," Good said.
LAVORP meetings assuaged Good's fears: the boys weren't involved in a gang. They were simply good kids who used bad judgment.
For restitution, store owners decided the teens should split the cost of damages: $750 each. Should the boys attend higher education, the money paid would then be put into their college funds. Both Rosado and his friend took the offer.
According to Singer, such altruism is common in LAVORP: "A couple of these people I've been meeting with in the past couple of days said, 'The fact that you had the courage to come and talk to me is enough. I don't need anything from you.' That's the power of it — for victims to be able to determine for themselves, rather than the court, what they need to have their harm addressed."
For Rosado, the offer went far beyond generosity. It proved that Good and the rest of the Amelia's staff weren't going to dismiss him as a juvenile delinquent.
The court, however, hasn't been so understanding. Because he was a minor during the incident, the arson offense should have been removed from Rosado's record when he turned 18. It wasn't — perhaps due to the severity of the offense. Now when he's not studying, Rosado works to get it expunged.
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