"Our family started using community building circles and harm repair circles a few months ago and it has helped us in many ways. Our family includes my husband, our 5 yr. old son and my 13 yr. old stepson. We started by using a harm repair circle because communication was lost between all family members, people were misunderstanding, feeling unheard or blaming one another. The circle allowed all family members to be heard, talk from personal experience, listen to how others were feeling, know the impact of our actions and take responsibility. Since our family had its first circle there has been open communication, more understanding and accountability from all family members. We have a community building circle every weekend that helps us connect with each other and support one another. If there is a problem within our family system, the first thing we do is have a circle, so we can get to the root of the problem. I know that our circles help our family and strengthen our bond with one another. We will continue to use circles for as long as we can to keep our communication open and strengthen our family."
To learn more about Community Building Circles (we have a sample script for you to use, as well!), click on the button below.
RJP Maine began two rounds of the UMaine Certificate Foundations Training in August without a hitch! Foundations course participants- past and present -are picking up what RJP Maine is trying to put down; restorative practices are not only for young people who have caused harm, but are practices that start with each of us and our committment to a restorative mindset and adopting these practices personally. Foundations course graduates are applying what they have learned not only to agency, organization, or school based work, but to their personal lives as well. We are seeing some exciting and important shifts happening in and after UMaine Foundations training and are feeling encouraged to know we will be able to offer a very similar training to our current volunteers, staff, and board this fall.
Below is is a compilation drawing of our Foundations trainees favorite places, created by our very own RJ Coordinator, Louise Marks.
RJP Maine wecomes our newest trainees to the RJP Maine community!
By A Lincoln County RJ Coordinator
County Coordinators with RJPM have been rocking and rolling throughout COVID, despite changes, challenges, and adjustments.
When COVID hit the U.S., Maine courts suddenly closed in March and stayed closed through June. The spring felt like an adjustment period across the country, a dormancy, but we knew that it was also a time when families could be most struggling. Here in Lincoln County, we stayed in contact with youth, families, and volunteers throughout the months, making sure folks knew about Lincoln County Food Initiative and other resources as needs arose.
In the meantime, we met over Zoom, or stayed in touch with phone calls, emails, and texts. One mentoring pair, often with me included, met weekly over Zoom. We talked about animals, biking, food we loved, and more. We kept each other going when we could have been isolated. Our Lincoln County volunteer group met regularly over Zoom, hosting guests we might never have had if commute time had been an issue. We held conversations about Nonviolent Communication, restorative practices in schools, addiction supports in the county, and more, all sparked by hosting outside speakers.
When courts opened in July, staff went back in -- with our masks on and hand sanitizer by our side. For volunteers, RJPM's policy now allowed us to meet with distancing and masks, so our creativity in meetings expanded to even more flexible options. One youth and mentor pair did community service on town hiking trails. As new cases came in, we held circles and meetings in parks, on bleachers, and over Zoom. We continue to partner with other stakeholders, community members, and organizations so that youth and families are supported by many voices and many angles of service, laughing together as well as chewing on how to meet challenges -- never losing that human touch to the work we do, whether in person or online.
Our need to stay connected has been even stronger during this time, not lagging. Now more than ever, our work has deep meaning and value -- even if our means of connection take on greater creativity, and even if our circles are in the most unexpected of places.
Alright. With an extremely heavy heart, here we go...
We've had a few days to process and tonight in Belfast, as we stand alongside so many others in grief and gratitude, we will honor the life of Jesse Harvey whose death on Monday is being considered an overdose.
Jesse was known by many as having both struggled and succeeded throughout his young life. Among his many accomplishments, he stablished Journey House as one of the first recovery residences in Maine to accept people using medication assisted treatment. Jesse also founded the Church of Safe Injection in 2018 after being disheartened by the lack of needle exchange programs in the state. Per a 2019 Portland Press Herald news story, Jesse's goal in starting the program was to "reduce diseases caused by sharing needles, and to provide drug users with sterile syringes and the overdose reversing drug Narcan until they are able to get into a recovery program." Jesse also founded the Portland Overdose Prevention Society. April Turner, a social worker and candidate for the Maine House of Representatives District 99, wrote of Jesse, "he wanted to bring so much change and understanding for those affected by substance use disorders. He wanted to educate those that sought to be part of the much needed change. He wanted, and most certainly did, change the lives of everyone who met him."
Although Jesse actively struggled with his own sobriety, he never hid his experience using or his struggles with additction and many would say that out of those struggles came his success and his legacy.
Jesse fundatmentally believed in showing care, concern and compassion for marginalized and dis-empowered people. It is imperative that we as a society understand that addiction is a disease. It is imperative that we respect it as such and advocate for treatment. It is imperative that we respect the people who are fighting for their lives. We must do all that we can as a community to show up for them regardless of where they are in their fight.
A celebration of Jesse's life will be held at 6pm Sept 19th on the Eastern Promenade in Portland.
Tonight, in Belfast at the First Church (8 Court Street), from 6-7pm, join the community in vigil, honoring the lives lost to overdost, share the grief as well as the hope.
By Amy Frankel, MSW Intern
One might wonder how the Restorative Justice Project Maine has faced the challenge of meeting the needs of the community during this pandemic that has upended life for all of us over the past four months.
I joined the Restorative Justice Project Maine in May, as an MSW intern, and recently attended my first community resolution conference and closing, using Zoom. I can say, based on that experience, that it’s one thing to have a good intellectual understanding of the policies and practices at the center of RJPM’s process, but it’s transformative to actually participate in this work.
I found the experience uplifting, emotional, and as strong as any evidence I could imagine for how this process works and why it matters.
Even though the conferences took place using Zoom, they were as real as sitting in the same room with all of the participants. We connected through our computer screens and phones, from various locations in the community to support this conference.
Through my involvement, I gained respect for the RJ process and the way that it can provide opportunities for better outcomes, but also, and perhaps more importantly, the way that this process can be a transformative experience for the individual who has caused harm.
I could not help noticing how much happier this young person was during the closing conference, compared to the first time I met him. Initially withdrawn and reluctant to make eye contact, he was now engaged, smiling and talkative. He felt good about himself because he had been able to make things right, and the difference in his demeanor was remarkable. When he communicated about his experience completing community service hours, we were all moved by what he had learned and felt. He was fully engaged in this process and seemed transformed by the work he undertook to complete his reparative agreement.
As a member of the community, I felt connected to the individuals gathered in this space. I am grateful for having an opportunity to participate in a restorative conference. I met a young person with strengths and determination, eager to become his best self. I will never forget this experience.
Here's a snap of RJPM staffers getting it done during COVID. While we're not involved in a community resolution conference in this screenshot, we're still in virtual circle with one another on Zoom daily. Pictured from left-right, top to bottom: Amy, Sarah Matari, Hadriane, Karin, Jenna and Margaret.
Restorative Justice Project Maine
VISTA Member Draft Description
Dates of Service September or October of 2020 for 1-year with option for renewal up to three years.
Role of the member during the term of service
The Member will have a diverse and interconnected experience with all aspects of the organization’s structure, delivery framework, fund development and data evaluation.
Joining a 12-member team, the VISTA volunteer will work closely with the Special Projects Manager and be assigned a variety of projects throughout the year. We intend to offer a diverse experience supporting RJPM in building capacity to develop Community Justice Center’s across the region, and growing community engagement in the mid-coast area.
The VISTA will receive a 42-hour certificate in the foundations of restorative practices, restorative interventions and circle keeping to better inform their work with the organization and community, and life long learning experiences and skills within the restorative justice field.
Community Engagement. Engagement includes volunteer recruitment and support, attendance at community meetings, targeted research and/or projects as they relate to programs and raising awareness about restorative justice in the mid-coast and statewide.
Community Resolution Program
Provide support for the Coordination of juvenile and adult case referrals from the Department of Corrections Juvenile Services, Prosecutorial District 6 and local Law Enforcement agencies. Member will spend time with the program coordinator and key volunteers.
Community Justice Centers
Support special projects of the newly formed Community Justice Center as they relate to juvenile and adult cases referrals, participant continuum of care and raising community awareness of the meaningful roles that community volunteers can take on to participate more fully in the process of justice. Assist with the collection and reporting of data for the grants.
Provide support to the Executive Director and Fund Development Director with ongoing activities that financially ensure RJP Maine’s fund development goals.
Attend weekly staff meetings, complete VISTA reporting, meet with supervisor regularly and other needs/interests as they arise.
This is a very exciting time for restorative justice here in Maine! In the fall of 2019, RJPM received a Innovations in Community-Based Crime Reduction Program grant for one million dollars, over 4-years to develop our Community Justice Centers, our regional District Attorney ran on a restorative platform, legislatively there is work being done to establish explicit use of RJ within the justice system, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion partnership and state wide interest continues to surge.
We are confident that we can provide an excellent experience for 1 or 2 VISTA members to join a dynamic and exciting time here at RJPM!
AmeriCorps VISTA Benefits
• Stipend of $954 per month throughout the 12 month term ($1,174 in Cumberland and York Counties)
• Choice of $6,195 education award or $1,800 cash stipend upon completion of service
o Education award can be to pay off qualified loans, or for educational expenses at Title IV schools
• Forbearance of federally qualified student loans during service term (interest paid by AmeriCorps)
o Some private loans (you must call lender to ask)
• Health Benefits (go to link below for more details)
• Workers Compensation Coverage
• Child Care Reimbursement (if income eligible)
• 10 days of sick leave and 10 days of vacation leave
• Relocation Allowance for service for those who relocate 50 miles or more (from their home of record)
o One time relocation allotment of $750 and reimbursement for travel costs (baggage shipment, mileage reimbursement if driving a personal vehicle)
• Non-competitive eligibility for Federal Jobs for 1 year after your term of service
• Networking/professional development
• Mileage reimbursement to AmeriCorps sponsored training events
• Mileage reimbursement for project/site related travel consistent with staff reimbursement at the site
• Usually eligible for Food Stamps (SNAP) – should apply for benefit before starting VISTA term
If Interested, please contact:
AmeriCorps Program Coordinator ll
Goodwill Industries of Northern New England
190 Lancaster St. Suite 200
Portland, ME. 04101
https://www.facebook.com/GoodwillAmeriCorpsServes/ for more information and to apply.
VISTA Member Overview
July 17, 2020
#3 Briefly describe organization and the community it serves
Founded in February 2005, The Restorative Justice Project of Maine is 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides restorative programming and services across a comprehensive continuum of prevention, intervention and reintegration efforts. RJPM was conceived as a grass-roots citizen effort to promote alternatives to punishment, isolation and incarceration in favor of collaborative, non-adversarial processes focused on accountability, support and healing - inviting those most directly affected by harm to the center of determining a resolution. The project is the longest running restorative justice organization in Maine, founded and launched entirely through volunteer efforts and private investment.
Over the last 15 years, the organization has worked tirelessly to provide and model quality restorative programming and champion the spread of restorative practices throughout the state. We’ve trained and supported many of the practitioners working across the state, including hundreds of community volunteers, and have seen the Juvenile Division of the State Department of Corrections evolve their programming toward restorative interventions whenever possible, including with youth at the state’s juvenile facility. The District Attorney’s office working with RJPM refers adult cases through their deferred disposition sentence encouraging participation in the conferencing process. Conferencing brings together persons harmed with the offender to repair the harm, understand the impact and offer amends with community support.
RJPM partners with Maine’s K-12 school systems and community organizations, building capacity in the use of restorative practices through training and coaching support. Restorative practices in schools helps build strong relationship based communities and decreases the negative impact of punishment on students. In 2018, RJPM launched a 42-hour cohort-based foundational training in partnership with the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast, ME.
RJPM is completely committed to preventing and reducing the impact of crime and harm by furthering the use of restorative practices so that solutions can be applied in any setting where a relational, non-adversarial problem solving process would be of benefit in preventing, reducing and repairing the impact of crime and wrongdoing.
#2 How will your project and the work of the VISTA member aim to reduce poverty with clients you serve?
The focus of the work inevitably serves those most affected by the criminal justice system in rural areas, where poverty and those who are disenfranchised result in the highest system involvement.
At RJPM, the majority of people referred to us have experienced some form of poverty, whether generational, situational, or working-class. Poverty stereotypes and judgments must be challenged in order to break down barriers. Inequality is a growing problem in the area, exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing and employment opportunities. According to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Maine renter would have to earn $18.73 an hour to be able to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment, but the average wage for a renter in Maine is $11.44 an hour, leaving a gap of $7.29 an hour, the ninth highest in the nation.
By providing alternative interventions RJPM is reducing the number of individuals who become more deeply and systematically involved with the justice system by helping people to navigate the justice system, be heard and to have a second chance.
The VISTA member will work closely with the Community Resolution Program seeing first hand the impact of poverty within the criminal justice system and incarceration. Their role will support access to resources, an understanding of restorative justice as an alternative and increase awareness of community resources. When invited RJPM works with the whole family unit to address what has happened and together resolve the situation.
Additionally, RJPM’s reentry program has been a driving force for building trust, acceptance, and positive relationships between incarcerated residents of the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center and Belfast’s city residents and business owners. Creating highly collaborative working relationships across a diverse set of stakeholders, some of whom are in deep conflict with each other, is at the heart of restorative work.
#3 Special consideration may be given to sites that combat the opioid crisis or are veteran focused. If yours does, please explain how and if the VISTA member’s service will directly contribute to that.
RJPM’s focus is not directly targeting the opioid crisis or veteran arena. However, many of the clients and families we work with live with the chaos and impact that opioids and PTSD can have on families.
The member working with the program director may do research to assist individuals seeking services in those areas and attend the Waldo County Recovery Committee circles if interested.
‘The Waldo County Recovery Committee, partnered with the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center and the Restorative Justice Project Maine, holds a Community Recovery Support Circle every Tuesday. Whether you are in recovery or not, this circle is an opportunity for personal growth;
Everyone is welcome! Come prepared to listen, reflect on your own experiences, and share from your own perspective if you so choose.”
RJPM is working in partnership with Health Equity Alliance to pilot a Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, is an effort to make meaningful interventions on the opioid epidemic locally by connecting people to targeted case management, mental health and recovery supports, as well as to RJ in cases where that is pertinent.
This summer, RJPM has joined with Waldo County Community Action Partners and Community Food For Children, offering free meals, books and enrichment activities while school is out! The Mid- Coast Transportation Van has been making deliveries twice a week throughout the area, offering a 3 day supply of breakfasts and lunches on Mondays and offering a 4 day supply of breakfasts and lunches on Thursdays.
In addition to Waldo County Community Action Partners and Community Food For Children, individuals from Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition and Literacy Volunteers have also been involved in creating the activities and dispersing the food and books. Areas of focus have been on reading, nature, nutrition and community building.
This is an ongoing project, slated to wrap up on August 27th. Take a peek below at the enrichment activities that RJPM created specifically for this project. As you'll notice, our materials are focused on community- building. But in place of a community building- script, which is common practice in any restorative circle, we chose to create a story board. This story board encourages youth being in circle with one another outdoors and uses a talking piece, some stretching and breathing exercises to settle into circle, and three rounds of questions. These questions encourage story sharing, thoughtfulness, and deep listening and they also offer children the chance to be seen and heard.
The story board above, as well as the artwork below, were all created by RJPM summer intern, Hadriane Hatfield specifically for this project. They were created as coloring activities and were included in a scavenger hunt that focused on finding circle shaped objects out in nature! In addition to the coloring activities and scavenger hunt, kiddos were given crayons, magnifying glasses and little cloth baggies to collect their scavenger hunt treasures!
As this is an ongoing project, please check our website and social media for new updates and photos! If you are interested in receiving food delivery or perhaps you're interested in volunteering, please reach out to Cherie Merrill at 207. 338. 6809 ext. 202.
By Leslie Ross
Hancock County Case Coordinator for RJP Maine &
Downeast Restorative Justice Board Member
News that the Sheriff's department was requesting funds from the Hancock County Commissioners for the purchase of riot gear, firearms and ammunition spread quickly, as did the response to it--the Commissioners and the Sheriff's Department had never received the volume of comments and concerns that they received over this one issue. And these continued to come in even as the Sheriff clarified that he was not requesting armed vehicles or tear gas but equipment he called protective--shields, batons and helmets.
Due to the response, the request was removed from the agenda the week before the meeting, but this did not stop 66 people (where normally there might be 2 to 5, depending on the agenda) from showing up to voice their concern. Downeast Restorative Justice took this dramatic increase of local residents' involvement in these issues and the larger concerns they raised as a demonstration that there was a need for dialogue.
To that end DRJ proposed that the Commissioners form a committee of both law enforcement and community members the objectives of which will be two-fold:
On one hand, it will explore what we feel needs to be included in a Community Crisis Intervention Policy Manual, something that currently does not exist for the County. Beyond crowd management, concern with which was the impetus for the sheriff's initial request, this manual will cover different individual crisis management intervention strategies and the organizations or professionals (e.g., mental health, substance abuse) who are best equipped to respond. It will also include best practices and the aligning training to support them.
The other purpose of this committee--and this is close to our hearts--will be to lay the groundwork for a more cooperative working relationship between law enforcement and the community they serve. It is our hope that together (community members and different law enforcement agencies), we will establish a structure for routine open communication and check-in circles.
We are so excited about this coming together and see it as a very positive outcome to the anger and frustrations that were raised by the Commissioners' initial meeting announcement. Already, many not previously connected with either RJP or DRJ, some as individuals and some as representatives of other organizations, have expressed interest in being involved in the process.
Downeast Restorative Justice will be holding a Zoom meeting on Wednesday July 1 at 6 pm for members of the community to voice what questions they would like this committee to address before presenting the formal proposal to the Commissioners the following week.
With love and respect,
It shouldn't take video footage of George Floyd's murder to prove that this is STILL happening, and that this is wrong.
By Louise Marks