The Restorative Justice Project Maine, in partnership with Health Equity Alliance (HEAL) and the Waldo and Knox County Sheriff’s Departments, would like to share the exciting news that as of October 1st, we are officially kicking off LEAD- a law enforcement diversion pilot program.
The LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) initiative is being managed by RJP Maine's Community Resolution Program Manager, Sarah Mattox. She was excited to discuss the pilot with RJP Maine's Communications Coordinator, Jenna Golub, so that the community might better understand this emerging diversion program.
JG: Sarah, you’ve been managing the development of the LEAD initiative for RJP Maine. Congratulations! As of today, October 1st, the Waldo County Sheriff’s patrol division has been oriented and RJP Maine has begun receiving referrals. It sounds like the initiative is off to a solid start. How did this initiative come about?
SM: Thank you! It has definitely been exciting; designing this program has been a good opportunity to build relationships with the Health Equity Alliance and to deepen our commitment to offering restorative opportunities with the support of the Sheriff’s Department. The design phase of this pilot consisted of writing policy and procedure; consulting with the national LEAD Bureau and the Longmont Community Justice Partners in Longmont, Colorado, as well as new Waldo County Community Liaison, Rob Porter; formation of law enforcement Diversion Advisory Committee for both Waldo and Knox counties; and assembling an informational flyer and referral form. The team has included Waldo County RJ Coordinator, Karin Wittmann, and terrific interns Hadriane Hatfield and Amy Frankel. This addition of this law enforcement formal referral stream to our long-standing Community Resolution Program is sponsored by a grant from the Department of Public Safety.
JG: How is this process different from traditional police responses?
SM: Historically, officers have had limited options available to them when they respond to a call for assistance: they can work to provide assistance by diffusing the situation in the moment or they can charge someone, either through summons or arrest. Officers and the public are aware that sometimes these responses are unable to effectively address the root cause of the call - particularly when mental health or substance use are part of the equation or if it's a matter of long-standing conflict.
JG: Enter LEAD!
SM: Yes! With LEAD, officers are provided a third option: to divert the call to community-based service for attention. This could take the form of either targeted case management (to address unmet needs someone may have in the realms of mental health counseling, recovery support, access to food or housing, etc), or restorative justice, or both - in situations where that is relevant. HEAL and RJP Maine are dedicated to working effectively together so that individuals can get their needs met and, once they are in a position where they are able to engage in facilitated conversation around conflict and harm, that can happen through RJP Maine.
JG: The Waldo County Sheriff’s patrol division has completed their orientation and RJP Maine has already begun to receive referrals. Please speak to the referral process if you would.
SM: It’s pretty simple. Officers have a referral form in their cruiser as well as an informational sheet (see below). They also have the policy and procedure around what instances may be eligible… If they speak with parties involved and the parties are agreeable, then they can send the referral. Restorative processes are built on the understanding that they must be voluntary for all involved.
In the case of the person who has been harmed, they need not agree to participate if they are not interested in doing so. Instead, they might choose to speak with the RJP Maine facilitators to convey their concerns and they could opt to identify a proxy - such as a family member or a friend - to participate on their behalf or they could request that RJP Maine work to identify a surrogate to stand in for them. In this case, it would be someone who had experienced something similar and could speak to the impact upon them. Of course, this is not as direct but can still be very useful.
JG: Very, very exciting. It is also worth noting that RJP Maine will be holding a five session training course beginning October 9th, for our current volunteer mentors and facilitators. Should mentors and facilitators expect focused training on the LEAD initiative?
SM: Waldo and Knox volunteers have been receiving information about this pilot as it has unfolded and we will continue to learn together, along with the community and with officers, about how to offer the most supportive processes possible. We’ll definitely be learning together as we go.
JG: This is an amazing initiative and I'm so excited for the community to learn about it. What do you hope will come of LEAD in the coming months?
SM: In time, our intention is to reach out to other law enforcement agencies in Waldo and Knox Counties to see if they would like to participate, and also to make similar opportunities available in the other counties that RJP Maine serves.
Special thanks to Sarah for her devotion to this project and the time she set aside to speak about it. We know Sarah would be the first to say that RJP Maine is very grateful to our partner organizations and the several devoted individuals who have given so much of their time and brain power to making this pilot program happen. Congrats and thank you to all!
“We have handcuffs and guns and maybe some pepper spray but that’s what we’ve got for tools - but many of the calls we receive are about conflict. This pilot is about trying to resolve the issues, at their core, so that it doesn’t continue to circulate or to grow.” Chief Deputy Jason Trundy - Waldo County Sheriff’s Department
By Rachelle B., Recovery Coach Coordinator
"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.