Alleged vandals meet with Douglass statue creators through 'Restorative Justice' program


    (WHAM photo)

    Rochester, N.Y. (13WHAM) - There was outcry in the community after a Frederick Douglass statue at the corner of Tracey and Alexander Streets was vandalized in December. But those behind the project still called for the incident to be a teaching moment, saying it's what Douglass would've wanted.

    Charles Milks and John Boedicker are charged with criminal mischief in the crime.

    At the time, they were students at St. John Fisher College. The college said Thursday they are no longer enrolled.

    The statue was part of a series commemorating the 200th birthday of Frederick Douglass, a project run by the Re-energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Committee.

    The District Attorney's Office says its working with a program called Restorative Justice in the case. It's run through the Center for Dispute Settlement in Rochester.

    President and CEO Frank Iberti said the committee's calls for making the incident a teaching moment led him to try to get involved in the case.

    "From our perspective, it really stood out as ripe for a restorative justice process," said Iberti.

    "These are people who are willing and anxious to use this as a teaching moment - who better to know what it would take to fully restore the community than these folks?" he said.

    The process works by getting all parties involved together. In this case, the alleged vandals met with members of the committee, attorneys, and the team at the center.

    The process works by the offender(s) taking full accountability of their actions.

    That is followed by the offender(s) acknowledging the impact of their actions.

    The last step is the healing process, which begins by the victim(s) discussing how they can heal.

    The center says the process puts the focus on the victim, not the offender. They say it's not always the case in a courtroom.

    "The needs of the victims were put up and prioritized, and there were all kinds of accountability put around those needs," said Lynda Bell, the training director with the center.

    Christine Christopher, the manager of the statue project, called the process "important."

    The district attorney's office wouldn't comment on whether going through the program could affect any potential criminal punishment for Milks and Boedicker.

    Boedicker's attorney declined comment, while Milks' attorney never returned a call for comment.

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