A judge did not abuse his discretion by ordering a 12-year-old to pay to clean up the graffiti he sprayed on neighbors' houses - and then extending the kid's probation when he failed to make any payments - the Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today.
The court rejected the Easthampton teen's argument that making him pay nearly $1,100 to clean up the graffiti he sprayed around his neighborhood is "punitive" and so contrary to the underlying principle of the state's juvenile justice system, which aims at rehabilitation, rather than punishment. He also argued that both state law and contemporary mores frown on young adolescents getting a job, which he said would have been the only way to get the money.
Balderdash, the appeals court wrote in its ruling:
[W]e also reject the juvenile's suggestion that he should be excused from paying restitution because it is contrary to contemporary mores or even "taboo" to permit a juvenile of twelve to sixteen years to earn money by obtaining a paper route, mowing lawns, raking leaves, shoveling snow, baby-sitting, delivering groceries, or by recycling items upon which a deposit had been paid. As the judge properly noted, there exists statutory permission for children as young as nine years of age to participate in the delivery and sales of newspapers, G.L. c. 149, § 69, and there is no statutory prohibition against the other remunerative pursuits ordinarily associated with childhood listed above.
The court also noted the kid had a savings account with $20 in it at the time and that he made no effort to fork over even that to clean up his mess. And it added that extending his probation when he failed to make any payments was not punishment, but a valuable lesson:
When he extended the period of probation, the judge properly sought to teach the juvenile one of life's primary lessons: he is responsible for the actions he takes. Such an order not only provided an opportunity to build the juvenile's character and integrity, but also to promote his life as a law-abiding citizen. The judge's order had the added benefit of instilling in the juvenile the important values of respect for others (as well as their property) and a basic understanding of the value of work and money.