Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When Mercy & Justice Kiss

The quality of Mercy is not strained:
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blessed him that gives, and him that takes.
                           - Portia, Merchant of Venice

A few weeks ago Mike, our mailman, knocked on the door and told me that we ‘better take a look at our car.’ The front passenger side window had been smashed out of my wife’s Honda. It appeared that whoever did it seriously lacerated their arm and or hand for there was blood splattered all over the interior.

We called EPD and Officer Nick Marraccini arrived and took a report. The next day he stopped by to inform us that while he was running the criminal mischief report he discovered our registration was overdue. Not wanting to add insult to injury, he graciously gave us a few days to renew it.

As it turned out one of our neighbors had witnessed the crime and furthermore knew the person who committed it. We called Marraccini and in short order the perpetrator was found, contacted and on the cusp of being charged. Marraccini explained to us that when he confronted ‘Joe,’ the young man admitted he had broken the widow and profusely apologized. Marraccini also informed us that ‘Joe’ had no prior criminal record and he had a steady job with a family member.

Given the circumstance of the crime, the lack of criminal record and ‘Joe’s’ cooperative attitude, Marraccini asked us if we were amiable to meeting with ‘Joe’ before he was charged. We agreed. Having worked with many young people who have done a number of stupid things for an equally number or regrettable reasons (who amongst can truly say they are in a position to ‘cast the first stone?’) our desire was to see justice exercised while salted with mercy.

We met with 'Joe' at the police station. He shared his story about how he had received some disturbing news that launched him into a fit of anger and eventually, at the apex of his rage, smash our window. It wasn’t directed at us. He was acting out in an (no need for details) uncharacteristic way though undeniably foolish one.

While he told his tale of woe he was in tears, ‘the real kind’, as my old Mum used to say with a keen eye. He was truly repentant and reached into his pocket and pulled out enough money to pay for the damages—money loaned to him by his employer who would deduct it from his salary over time.

We talked to him and counseled him in working through his problems. Later in the day his Mom came by to thank us. By the time we called it a night, our damages were paid for, we made a new neighbor, invited a scared young man over for dinner and saw a young man pay a dear price for his mistake without having to either go to prison or have a criminal record for the rest of his life.

Officer Marraccini did more than just his job. He rose head and shoulders above the call of duty by seeking a way to bring justice into a situation that otherwise would have been routine management of a seconded degree misdemeanor. His grace in the situation facilitated a means for this young man not to be haunted by his past, strengthened relationships, improved our neighborhood and shed a positive light on the Easton Police Department.

Officer Marraccini, the Miller’s tip our hat. THANK YOU!



Bernie O'Hare said...

Nice post.

Incidentally, if you ever look at the Northamton County seal, you will see two words - mercy and justice.

Sandra Walters Weiss said...

Great post,if I could be arrested for stupidity,I would be doing life.It is also a great example of being a good neighbor and walking in another man's shoes,thank you for sharing the experience!

Tim Pickel said...

Thanks for the post. Its all about "walking in love "and humbling oneself.

We are all guilty of things done at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. When, or if the chance comes to redeem our mistakes, most of us would jump at it. Thank you for giving the young man the chance to make that leap.

Nick Marraccini and I have had our differences over the years but I give him credit for making the leap of faith it took to bring all parties together.

noel jones said...

Terrence, I love this drawing you chose. Even more I love this story, which is an example of the power of a comprehensive crime-reduction strategy, rather than an enforcement-only strategy.

In a comprehensive strategy, police, outreach workers and residents (in this case, the outreach workers and the residents are the same in the Millers) work together to find alternatives to simply arresting someone and throwing them into an overcrowded jail, which then needs to keep expanding in the middle of a community. It also offers a chance for first-time offenders, who may just be making stupid mistakes after a rough day, to make amends and go forward thinking of themselves as good people who face up to responsibility, rather than criminals forever marked by the community.

There is a misconception of a comprehensive crime-reduction strategy that is important to clear up. It is in no way a criticism of a police department--quite the opposite--it is residents, outreach workers, nonprofits and faith-based orgs taking personal responsibility for the safety of our community and stepping up to PARTNER with the police department, rather than expecting them to solve everything for us by arresting everyone and throwing them in jail. It is also the idea that if a community DOES step up, they no longer need to keep expanding their police department, incurring the tax bill of each new set of salary, benefits and pension. This has done wonders in other cities in the U.S. and I'm glad to see that our police department is beginning to shift toward employing some of these strategies.

One important point though--partnering does not mean inviting residents, outreach workers, nonprofits and faith-based orgs to a task force meeting and telling them what to do. It involves honoring the years of experience that these people and organizations have already been doing this kind of work, and asking for advice and assistance in developing a comprehensive strategy together.

A big thanks to Officer Marraccini, and to our new neighborhood officers, Matt Rush and Russ Dempko for embracing this new approach to working together with the community--and of course to Chief Palmer for directing the EPD in this new direction.

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
Terrence, you are a gentlemen and I do appreciate the work you do and this posting is testament to the fact that you are an individual who truly cares about helping others. We may disagree on certain things but I never questioned your commitment to making Easton a better place for all people.

noel jones said...

Thanks for posting, Mayor. Easton has bright days ahead...

g_whiz said...

An amazing post, and a particularly insightful story. Its interesting how if we apply a little empathy to situations that could ultimitley be seen as "open and shut" cases. Every behavior has underlying causes that on occasion aren't addressed by criminal punishment. This story is a great example of that and I thank you for your approach.

Nick Marraccini said...

Thank you for all the kind words but really, I was only doing my job. This may not be the forum for this but I could certainly use the help. Every year I raise money for the March of Dimes and this year is no different. My goal is $12,000 this year and I have only been able to raise $3000. I walk in the annual March for Babies walk. If you would like to donate or just read my story go to www.marchforbabies.org/afcjdaddy thank you.

Nikkita said...

This is truly a great post! You have a very warm and loving spirit. Not everyone would have the ability to seperate themselves from the situation to see the story behind the scenes.

Like everyone has been saying, We've all done stupid things in our lives and it's good when your given the grace to live past your mistakes and the wisdom to grow from your choices