By Carrie Sullivan
The plan asks us to define “hotspots” or places where problems of crime or wrongdoing are concentrated. We are learning that crime problems look different in rural communities than they do in urban settings. Rural “hotspots” cluster more around root causes that underlie wrongdoing rather than the actual incidents of violence and crime. Based on the information we’ve collected to date (from law enforcement and elected officials, numerous citizens and community-based organizations, and local citizens and volunteers) a key hotspot for Midcoast Maine is the need for more community-based support for individuals who cycle through the justice system, whether that be incarceration or frequent jail time.
Defining Our Hotspot – a snapshot of what’s been collected during planning
While there was a broad range of needs and desires expressed by Knox County citizens for a Community Justice Center, the overwhelming sentiment revolved around reentry—both helping people re-establish themselves afterward or prevent them from becoming incarcerated—both can be achieved through a set of community supports and services. Source: Knox County Community Interviews
- A consistent pattern across all four counties showed that the majority (75%) of named services and programs that currently exists focus on Prevention, Early Intervention and Intervention with significantly fewer resources for addressing for Intensive Intervention, Out-of-Home Treatment and Community Reintegration. The phases of care with the most named services in all four counties was Prevention while Reintegration consistently had the least. Source: Place Matters 2020 Midcoast Summit draft report
- There is a need to shift away from cultures that are punitive and inequitable, to decriminalize nonviolent crime, and shift away from crisis management to case management that creates longer term care plans in order to reduce and prevent people cycling through criminal justice system simply because it’s the main door for problems of crime, conflict, and wrongdoing. Source: CBCR Steering Team interviews with Natasha Irving, District Attorney, District 6; Ray Porter, Corrections Officer; Jason Trundy, Chief Deputy Waldo County; Joel Merry, Sheriff Sagadahoc County; Aaron Park, Bath City Council
Knox County Leading The Way
Another requirement of the planning phase is to demonstrate that our solution is viable through an Early Action Project. To that end, Knox County has been serving as our demonstration project. Despite the challenges COVID has presented in this planning period, Knox County continues to make strides in the growth of local community justice efforts:
- There’s a collaborative effort to bring more reentry support and restorative programming to residents of Knox County Jail in an effort to reduce and prevent re-offending that involves community partners, volunteers, and people with lived experience.
- For a second year, the Knox County Commissioners voted to help fund a Community Justice Coordinator position, the first full time position of its kind. Many Knox County citizens and partners participated in that process, demonstrating strong community support and ownership.
- The Lead Pilot Program (that RJP Maine is also a part of) is bringing restorative practices and case management support to people at earlier points in the process, in an effort to get people the help and support they need, bring community-based resolution to all parties, rather than through the single door of jail time and system involvement.
RJP Maine looks to complete the CBCR planning phase in early 2021. We are excited to bring the CBCR grant resources to bear in a moment that compels us to reimagine public safety and justice, and to work alongside so many partners to grow restorative practices throughout the communities we serve.