For two teenage boys in Brainerd, a bit of boredom led to a decision they said had humiliating consequences.
All for “three minutes of fun.” The boys decided to make homemade explosive devices by combining household chemicals.
What seemed to them as harmless mischief brought them to the justice system and the Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project — a police and school diversion program or court-ordered alternative for juvniles in Crow Wing County.
Part of the boys’ agreement with LARJP was writing a letter to the public about the dangers of the activity they engaged in.
“Many times teenagers attempt such actions for fun or to cause what they perceive as harmless mischief by combining common household items to create unsafe and unsupervised chemical reactions. But, in reality the crime that they commit affects not only themselves but their families and communities,” the boys wrote.
LARJP provides a forum for juvenile wrongdoers, their families, and those victimized by their crimes along with their supporters to meet in a safe environment to talk about the incident and decide on reparations for those harmed.
The project is directed to minor juvenile offenders in Crow Wing County.
Project organizers said the goals are: To help juvenile offenders to understand the true impact of their actions on the crime victims, their families and the community; hold offenders accountable; and involve the community.
For the community, they said the public benefits since studies have shown these types of projects result in fewer repeat offenses. The juveniles face the people they’ve harmed in a group setting and are expected to take responsibility for their actions. And LARJP reports offenders are far more likely to pay restitution to the victim and make reparations to their community. For victims, the gathering allows them to express themselves and get answers to questions.
“I know from first hand experiences that the consequences and humiliation those three minutes can cause oneself and ones family lasts for a long time,” the boys stated in the letter. “When doing something like this you might only think about yourself, but really your family, friends, and community pay the price with you.
“With something like this one thing that almost always goes along with this is the police getting involved. This means that there could be felony charges of unlawful possession, manufacture and transport of destructive devices, along with many other things depending on how the incident happened.
“But, the charges with the police are specific and last for only a period of time which is not the same case with your friends and family. When it comes to the friends and family the way they perceive you changes drastically. You can go from the poster child straight to having everyone look down on you for your actions. Not only that, but the trust with parents is all but shattered.
“So are three minutes of fun really worth it? The answer, plain and simple, is no.”
Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project is hosting a Community Picnic in the Park from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at Trailside Park’s north end in Pequot Lakes.
Hot dogs, beverages, chips and beans will be served for $2 a plate. The picnic includes games for kids such as bean bag toss and prizes. For more information on LARJP is www.lakesarearestorativejustice.org.