Restorative Justice Project Wins nearly $1 Million in grant award; seeks new Executive Director to lead
This is the kind of news we love to share;
RJP was recently awarded nearly a million dollars from the Office of Justice Programs ($924,307) for a 48-month grant from the the Innovations in Community Based Crime Reduction program. Only 14 grants were awarded and are thrilled to be one of them.
We’ll use the grant to work in partnership with the Midcoast communities to test and implement a model of Community Justice Centers across Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties which make up Prosecutorial District 6.
The grant supports a unique and innovative collaboration between RJP, law enforcement, elected officials, and the University of Southern Maine.
In addition to the grant, which paves the way for Community- based Justice Centers, RJP is announcing that it will seek a new Executive Director to lead the organization forward, as the current director takes on leadership of the 4-year grant.
For further information or questions please contact Carrie Sullivan at email@example.com, 207/323-4137.
Please keep an eye on our social media and blog! There are many amazing things currently happening and so much more coming down the pike! And as always, RJP thanks our fantastic volunteers and partnering organizations for their support, enthusiasm and collaboration.
You can view the press release below!
BY Linda Garson Smith
Big, beautiful butternut squash, planted and harvested by members of the Belfast Reentry Center, were beckoning to me as I left the Waldo County YMCA. I thought, what better purpose than to cook them for the soup kitchen! I gathered up as many as I could carry and brought them home.
Forty-two guests enjoyed those roasted butternut squash as part of the dinner served at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the site of the monthly soup kitchen Adas Yoshuron Synagogue sponsors. Comments included, “This is the best meal I’ve ever had here!”
Later that afternoon, I was sharing the squash story at the YMCA front desk, when a young man proudly chimed in, “I planted those squash.” I thanked him and smiled at the serendipity of our interchange.
Linda Garson Smith
While a bit of a local secret, the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center Garden is no whimsical, hidden garden. It would be hard to keep a garden of this size a secret as it has, since 2009, grown and distributed upwards of 400,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables throughout Waldo County. Countless folks have volunteered their time and services to the project and countless families have been fed from the gardens yearly harvest. The garden provides food to local soup kitchens, 15 local food pantries, churches, the local YMCA, various local organizations such as The Game Loft, and the MCRRC, itself.
While the garden is large, and has captured the attention of local news outlets over the years, we here at RJP would be willing to bet a crate of zucchini that most folks within our community still don't know much about the garden project. Please read on to learn a little bit about this awesome project that was, in 2018, recognized by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Energy for “entrepreneurial excellence."
The MCRRC Garden is located in Swanville, upon 63 acres of land owned by Waldo County. The river flows from Swan Lake, 9.3 miles south to the city of Belfast and its mouth in Belfast Bay, an arm of Penobscot Bay. The soil is vitamin and mineral rich and has grown field upon field of fruits and vegetables including butternut and summer squash, pumpkins, zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, corn, beets, potatoes, and onions. It grows peach trees, apple and pear trees, and cherry trees.
In addition to the produce that's grown, local bee hives were donated to the project and are cared for by local bee keepers, Marsha and Lohman Gardener. Fun fact about bees: one third of our global food supply is pollinated by bees! Bees keep plants and crops alive and without them, humans wouldn't have very much to eat. In return, the MCRRC garden provides our local bees with plenty to eat, so they're happy and capable to work their magic! The Gardeners and their busy bees deserve a warm smile and 'thank you' in service of the garden project.
In addition to the Gardener's, many dedicated folks have been and are regularly involved in the project. The MCRRC residents volunteer their time on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and in return, develop skills and contribute towards community service). Waldo County Correctional staff, officers (if you cross paths with Cpl. Chris Albert, offer up a BIG "thank you" as he spends A LOT of time in the fields and on the tractors) and county commissioners work right alongside the MCRRC residents in the fields. There are many, many more folks who are involved in the project who will go unnamed in this post, but please know that they're greatly appreciated for their service and dedication by everyone involved in the project. It's truly a community garden, where everyone makes an equal contribution and everyone has equal impact.
Please take a minute to check out the video below along with gallery of images that were taken late summer/ early fall 2019. If you're interested in the garden, or perhaps you'd like to get involved, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Late Summer 2019 RJP/ MCRRC Garden Visit
Early fall 2019 RJP/ MCRRC Garden Visit
This past Sunday, August 25th, MCRRC residents, together with RJP's Louise and Jenna, RJP board member Rob Porter and Lake St. George park rangers, Sunshine and Alex, joined forces at Lake St. George in Liberty to celebrate the end of summer by swimming, boating, fishing, and picnicking!
To support this amazing park and the folks who so passionately care for its health and well-being, MCRRC residents stepped up to give thanks in as many ways as they could. The group assisted in organizing an upcoming yard sale, they learned in circle about the invasive Milfoil weed and how to inspect boats and educate boaters on the importance of proper inspection and cleaning practices so as to avoid invasive plant transfer, AND the group learned about the Chinese Mystery Snail, an invasive snail species found in lakes across the United States. Per the Lake Stewards of Maine Volunteer Lake Monitoring Program, the "introduction of non-indigenous invasive aquatic plant and animal species to the United States has been escalating with widespread destructive consequences. The impacts of the spread of invasive aquatic plants are well known: habitat disruption, degradation of native plant and animal communities, reduced shorefront property values, impaired fishing and negative impacts on recreation." The MCRRC residents and RJP group were so appreciative of these learning opportunities and grateful for the new skills and everyone just loved giving back to the park (and park community) in the form of snail hunting along the shallows of the lake!
Be sure to check out the pictures, as our crew collected dozens of snails... the largest snail weighed in at 28 ounces!
Many, many thanks to park rangers, Sunshine and Alex of Lake St. George! Their support of our group along with their enthusiasm for park health made the day fun, informative and super productive. We couldn't have ended the summer in a better place! The water was clear and warm, the sun was out and everyone was in happy spirits. We're eager to roll into autumn and the adventures the cooler season brings.
Family and Community Mediation, in partnership with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, presents a 40-HOUR BASIC MEDIATION TRAINING September 23, 24, 25 & October 2 & 3, 2019- Orono, ME
Interested in becoming a mediator? Enhancing your conflict resolution/management skills? Or, learning how to assist others in resolving their conflict-related issues? If yes, plan to attend this 5-day hands-on highly interactive practical training. Demonstrations, discussions, exercises, videos, and role-play practice with mediation scenarios are central features of this training in addition to mini- lectures. It will focus on both the facilitative and transformative orientation models. Guest mediator coaches will provide additional guidance and experience in your learning.
You will learn:
Learn new skills, understand how to apply them to your life and to a mediation practice by taking this training. Past participants report an amazing shift in the way they talk, listen and problem solve – at work and in their family life.
At the conclusion of the training, participants will receive a Certificate of Completion, a commonly accepted state and national standard. Note: Participants are expected to attend all training sessions to receive a certificate.
KAREN GROAT, Director of Family and Community Mediation, has worked with mediators, families, communities and outside organizations for over 18 years, specializing in complex family conflict and systems in more than 3500 mediations. An experienced Transformative Mediation trainer and communication coach, she also provides private and court-related mediation and training and is on the Maine Association of Mediators Board of Governors. FCM has expanded statewide in partnership with MAMP to serve Maine’s agriculture and rural communities.
LEAH BOYD is mediator, facilitator and certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication. She is co-owner of Clarity Services, LLC offering communication-related services to a variety of organizations as well as individuals. Since 2010 Leah has mediated for private clients, as well as the Maine District Court and the Department of Education.
And other professionals in the mediation field with experience in a variety of Alternative Dispute Resolution and Restorative Practices.
Enroll Early! Registration is limited.
Dates: September 23, 24, 25 (mon. Tue. Wed.) & October 2, 3 (Wed. Thur.), 2019
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: One York Complex, University of Maine, Orono, ME
Fee: $885, $775 Early Bird rate if registered by August 23, 2019
Credit:: Maine CLE available *For CLE credit add an additional $35 to registration fee
For more information contact: Karen Groat at Karen@mainefcm.org or www.Mainefcm.org
When you think about public health what comes to mind?
Maybe it is a hospital, or doctors. Maybe it has to do with medicine, policy or maybe even environmental sustainability. For me, it’s restorative justice (RJ).
Many people tend to think about public health in terms of physical or environmental factors, but often forget that health is also significantly impacted by whether an individual possesses or lacks social connectedness, or, what some consider, social capital. Think about it, at what point in your life have you felt at your best or happiest? Chances are, it was not at a moment when you were engaged with others rather than isolated.
Numerous studies have shown that social connectedness plays a huge role in physical, mental, and emotional well-being. A study in the American Association for the Advancement of Science demonstrated that lack of social connectedness contributes more to poor health than high blood pressure, or even smoking. Lack of connectedness also causes anxiety, depression and antisocial behavior, and it increases crime. One study found, “Social connectedness considerably reduces murders, rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, and motor vehicle thefts…. Social connectedness especially reduces murders of adolescents and young adults during gang and drug activity.”
Unfortunately, an article in Stanford Medicine suggests that, “Social connectedness is waning at an alarming rate in the US…the modal number of close others Americans claimed to have in 1985 was only three. In 2004 it dropped to zero…suggest[ing] that one in four people we meet may have no one they call a close friend!” Yikes!
But what’s restorative justice have to do with it?
Originating in indigenous communities, RJ believes when a crime occurs, the social fabric of a community is torn. Thus, it seeks to repair the fabric by increasing social connectedness. One way it does this is through community conferencing, a circle-based process in which stakeholders (community members, victim/survivor(s), and offender(s)) discuss what happened, how it affected them, and assemble a repair agreement for the offender(s) to complete. Community conferencing allows stakeholders to be heard, victims to be supported, offender(s) to be encouraged to take adequate responsibility for their actions.
While RJ has been regarded by some as a reactive approach to crime, it is increasingly understood as a component of restorative practices which seek to build resilient communities. Practices also include community-building circles which provide a space for communities to forge relationships and address mutual concerns.
One organization implementing these strategies to reduce crime and increase public health is the Restorative Justice Project. RJP has successfully been engaged in community conferencing since 2005.
I arrived at RJP as a new intern a few weeks ago. As a Grinnell College student from Kansas, I only had a vague understanding of RJ. At Grinnell, I volunteer as a sexual assault advocate and teach incarcerated men at a correctional facility largely populated by sex offenders. In these roles, I became increasingly frustrated with the isolation the people I work with experience. I found it increasingly hard to cope with the idea that punishment, especially severe punishment, is an effective response to harm. I witnessed this approach isolate sexual assault victims who did not want to pursue the criminal justice system in response to harm, and I witnessed the physical and mental isolation of those who have harmed, stifle their ability to be held truly accountable and be seen as holistic human beings.
So, even though I was, frankly, still skeptical of RJ, I took a leap of faith and made my way to Maine.
In just a short time, I have found RJ to be powerful and effective. It has changed my life, and I look forward to working more with RJP towards a more socially connected future.
If we need to have strong social connections to reduce crime and increase health, and RJ succeeds in forging connectedness, it seems natural that we should support RJ in our communities.
Cinthia Romo, is a summer 2019 intern at RJP. A permanent resident of Kansas City, Kansas and third year student at Grinnell College in Iowa, Cinthia was drawn to restorative justice and RJP through her volunteer teaching job at the Newton Correctional Facility in Newton, IA. She is a Sociology and French double major who aspires to obtain a PhD in Sociology and become a professor. Furthermore, with the help of her college advisors and RJP staff, she is currently working as a Mellon Mays Fellow grantee to research restorative justice practices. Her experiences throughout high school and college have fueled her thirst for social justice and change, and she hopes to incorporate her experiences at RJP and restorative practices into her future career.
“Thank you for not giving up on us.”
Those eight simple words from an Oceanside High School student to the Assistant Principal upon graduation sum up the positive impact that can result when a school embraces the massive, complex, demanding effort of creating a restorative school environment.
OHS has completed three of their planned five years of working with the Restorative Justice Project to implement Restorative School Approaches. By the end of this past school year, a shift in culture was palpable across a number of significant elements of the school community, from students to staff and administration to parents/guardians.
The faculty survey done in May 2019 showed a significant positive change in how staff described the school climate. When asked to reflect on the previous school year versus the current one on a 5-point scale ranging from Poor to Very Positive, positive and very positive ratings increased from 45% for the 2017-2018 school year to 73% for 2018-2019, an increase of 62%.
In our final OHS Restorative Practices Team meeting on June 19th, team members reflected on positive changes across the two school years that they had experienced and observed in the school community that may have driven this change in teachers’ perceptions of the climate. Main points included:
The RP Team is using this qualitative reflection in combination with quantitative data collected throughout the school year on behavioral referrals and interventions to develop objectives for further strengthening OHS’s restorative approaches, and addressing areas in need of change in the coming school year.
What is a Restorative School?
A personal perspective...
As is so often the case with program design where human behavioral change is the goal, determining cause and effect can be challenging, perhaps especially so with students who have multiple forces outside of the school environment that affect their lives, decision-making and well-being. Quantitative measures typically used in restorative school efforts include such standards as suspensions, school achievement and graduation rates, which can often take several years to construct a meaningful picture. For more immediate data, schools in Maine and other states continue to rely heavily on qualitative (such as the school climate question) and process data (such as tracking whether certain restorative practices occurred) to determine progress. Yet, the quality of how restorative practices are being implemented in a school remains a difficult thing to assess and communicate. “How do we know it’s working?” can be maddeningly difficult to answer.
As I complete nearly two years as the Restorative Practices Coordinator for RSU 13, I offer my own personal reflection – measurement, if you will – of what a restorative school is, or at least feels like. We each have a primal internal compass monitoring whether we are in a restorative (safe) or punitive environment (potential danger lurking around every corner) at any given moment. When I began this work in 2017, it had been 35 years since I’d set foot in a public school building in any meaningful capacity. That first day, I was astonished at how my heart rate shot up upon walking in the door, along with other symptoms of old anxieties surfacing. Clearly, I had not had a restorative school experience in my youth, to the point that the fight-or-flight response was still so easily triggered after so long.
From my experiences with RSU 13, I propose that you will know by some key factors you have stepped into a school well on its evolutionary path towards a restorative environment the minute you walk into the building or spend just a little time in the halls, in meetings:
While schools and the school system have a well-earned reputation as institutions highly resistant to change, this cultural shift can happen. It takes will on the part of leadership and staff – I would argue that students already want such a change. It takes diligent, careful planning; the rearrangement and possibly addition of staff and financial resources; it takes communication; it takes commitment to all of the above to sustain; and, especially, it takes time.
But then again, so does raising a healthy, confident child ready to enter the adult world.
LD 1397, An Act Regarding the Admissibility of Certain Statements of Juveniles, Approved by Gov. Mills!
On June 6th 2019, Gov. Mills approved LD 1397, An Act Regarding The Admissibility Of Certain Statements of Juveniles, into law. This legislation defines that in the event a youth is not successful with the Restorative Justice process, and the case goes to trial, no participant from the RJ process can be called to testify against them.
This is a big win for RJ because it is the first definition of Restorative Justice in the juvenile code.
Click on the button below to view the bill!