Newsletter - Fall 2015

Restorative Justice: Engaging Communities

 

Click HERE to read "Restorative Justice: Engaging Communities" written by Board Secretary, Marina Sideris for the Maine Bar Association. This is the third in a four part series on restorative justice. 


Special thanks to the Maine Bar Foundation for highlighting restorative justice!

 

Scroll down to page number 148, which is only 20 pages into the document. Marina's previous article in the series can be read here.

 

Restorative justice Institute Participates in 11th Annual PeaceWork Fair in Brunswick

 

The Restorative Justice Institute of Maine joined other local organizations in sharing perspectives and work on the theme of supporting children towards a future of peace, sustainability, and tolerance. Staff persons Chris Davis, Taryn Walker  and Louanne Schoninger offered a hands on workshop based on Kay Pranis' Conferencing Circles practice.

 

Children and adults worked together to make talking pieces from tiles on which they painted personal symbols and meanings. Participants took their talking pieces home along with a brochure and information about holding a conference circle at home or in their community. Fifty unique talking pieces were made that day, as well as countless connections with new and familiar faces from the local community.

RJIM Hires Local Facilitators Across Maine

 

The Restorative Justice Institute is excited to announce 24 additions to our statewide Justice Facilitator team. All of these Facilitators will engage in a six month highly supported training and coaching period. This training period provides ample opportunities for observation, co-facilitation, and supported lead facilitation. In addition, facilitators will join in peer learning  groups that will cultivate their collective wisdom and support strong teams to form in each of the RJIM-supported regions. 

 

“I believe that we all deserve chances if we are willing to take responsibility and work towards a common outcome that allows healing and forgiveness.“

– Michelle Dion-Bernier, Biddeford Facilitator

 

As a part of our commitment to high quality restorative programming we hire people who are familiar with and well connected in their local community. These teams of facilitators come from a variety of backgrounds including social services, education, law, and criminal justice. We are thrilled to know and work with these incredibly dedicated people. 

 

I am pleased to return home and gear my passion for social justice and community development toward facilitating with RJIM. I am grateful to have the opportunity to help repair relationships and communities using an innovative and effective restorative justice model.”

– Marisa Tureskey, Portland Facilitator

 

To meet our new facilitators, click here. We still have openings in Lewiston, Berwick and Kennebunk. To apply, send a resume to: submit@rjimaine.org. We encourage people with diverse backgrounds and experience to apply. 

 

The Oxford Hills Community Justice Collaborative

 

The Oxford Hills Restorative Justice Collaborative (OHRJC) co-chaired by Juvenile Community Corrections Officer (JCCO) Chris Dillman and Tamara Ben-Kiki, is a strong example of a community-focused, system-supported restorative initiative. This group is made up of mental health providers, a JCCO, business owners, the School Resource Officer, and representatives from DHHS, the school administration, domestic violence advocacy organizations, substance abuse prevention programs, and employment supports.

 

"The connections I have made and have seen others make through our collaborative efforts and facilitating circles have been so meaningful and valuable. It is exciting and hopeful to see how Restorative Justice is being woven into our community"

– Tamara Ben Kiki, OHRJC Co-Chair 

 

The OHRJC was one of the first Community Justice Collaboratives in the state. Sparked by community interest and a handful of champions in 2014, the group grew and evolved over the course of the past year and a half. The OHRJC is deeply rooted in a local community focus, and its members have been instrumental in connecting the ongoing circles to local resources like substance abuse programs, community gardens, school teachers, and even a local strawberry farm. Outreach and organization of the OHRJC has been supported by a local Liaison-facilitator Chris Davis.

 

Chris Dillman, the JCCO, has been a key advocate in helping Restorative Justice gain a foothold in the Oxford Hills community. His deep understanding of the concepts of Restorative Justice and the value it brings to the community along with a commitment to helping youth access restorative processes when appropriate has led the way for connections to be made.   The OHRJC is focused on prevention in the schools, and intervention with youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Most recently, the OHRJC has been developing a strong core group of facilitators and a smooth referral flow for Restorative Circles to be available for youth with chargeable offenses. To this end, RJIM has hired five local facilitators for the region who have varied levels of experience. Some are just beginning to explore restorative practices, and others – like Oxford Hills High School Teacher David Knightly - are able to support and mentor newer practitioners. David has also been instrumental in connecting the school with RJIM as a resource, and he has been able to help develop a plan with the school and engage a group of dedicated teachers and administrators to make up a leadership team. These efforts have been generously supported by the school district and the school’s Superintendent, Rick Colpitts. By connecting the school activities to the community based activities, a community-wide, multi-disciplinary system of restorative practices is forming. Having JCCO’s talk with school administrators and the SRO about restorative practices is resulting in generative conversation, similar to those cross-disciplinary conversations in Biddeford and Augusta which have resulted in smoother referral processes, and a “no wrong door” approach to accessing restorative processes. Substance abuse and mental health treatment providers have also expressed interest in being more involved, and even integrating restorative approaches into their existing programs. As these conversations continue, and practitioners in the area continue to develop their facilitation practice, the possibilities for the OHRJC are exciting to imagine!'m a paragraph. 

What is JJAG and why does JJAG support RJ?

The Juvenile Justice Advisory Group (JJAG) was created in response to the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974, which was amended in 2002.

 

The Act creates a voluntary partnership between states and the federal government for the purpose of improving the administration of juvenile justice. In return for an annual formula grant, based on the state’s juvenile population, each state undertakes to meet four congressionally defined standards for the management of juvenile offenders.  These relate to:

 

l) the handling of status offenders, 

2) the separation of juvenile from adult prisoners, 

3) the detention of juveniles in places other than adult jails and 

4) the equitable treatment of all juveniles regardless of race, ethnicity and culture.

 

The JJAG was first established as a committee of the Maine Criminal Justice Planning and Assistance Agency. Since July 1, 1982, the Department of Corrections (DOC) has acted as the JJAG’s administrative and fiscal agent.

 

As provided by the Act, the JJAG consists of not less than 15 and not more than 33 representatives of various constituencies concerned with juvenile justice and related areas.

 

At least one fifth of the members must be under the age of 24 at the time of appointment, and at least three members must have been or currently be under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system.

 

The JJAG and its committees advocate for youth through recommendations for legislative and policy reform, by monitoring state compliance with federal requirements, and by providing technical assistance to jurisdictions needing support for compliance or program development efforts.

 

The JJAG is responsible for the development of the Maine Comprehensive Plan for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention which is the guiding force behind its activities.

 

Restorative Justice has been included in the Plan for its holistic aspect of caring for offenders, victims and the community for the last several years. The JJAG has funded the Restorative Justice Institute of Maine for restorative justice programs and infrastructure since October 15, of 2013. We have funded projects in southern, mid-coast, and central Maine. In our most recent Plan, the 2015 to 2017 Plan, RJ is a priority both as a diversion and a prevention program.

Juvenile Justice Advisory Group

 

  

Why RJ is good alternative?

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Let me quote from the 2015 – 2017 Plan, _“Restorative Practice is a holistic philosophy which consists of the accountability and reintegration of the juvenile offender, is victim focused, and repairs the harm done. Restorative practices are viewed by the JJAG as a successful, practical, and fiscally responsible method of accomplishing the JJTF [Juvenile Justice Task Force] recommendations of increasing graduation rates, reducing expulsion and suspension rates, and developing alternatives to detention. Four key areas of focus for the implementation of restorative practices in Maine are program development in schools and communities, education of the public in restorative practices, public advocacy to initiate legislative and justice system support for the promising practice, and lastly as a methodology of managing and leading communities in both the public and private sector.”_

 

What was your first experience with RJ?

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My first experience with formal restorative justice was when the JJAG funded training for the up and coming Old Orchard Beach Juvenile Community Review Board.  I was fortunate to be able to take part in the training provided to community volunteers for the restorative Justice Conferencing Circles. It was fascinating. The more I heard the more I thought, “Of course this works! It’s the right way…the human way.”

 

What is happening in Juvenile Justice nationally that could serve as model for Maine?

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Honestly, we are so new to this work and recognize how young RJ in Maine really is. The JJAG is currently in discussion to learn what we might do to make a strong RJ system where programs funded by the JJAG all use the same practices.

 

I focused on restorative versus retributive processes as approaches in the justice system. The goal was to determine if and how an individual’s justice sensitivity (a personality trait) and selective attention predict preferences for restorative or retributive processes when assigning a sanction to a criminal case. I used Bowdoin students in Psych 101 classes as my subjects, with the intent to understand how the general public, not necessarily those involved in the legal system, would show preferences for varying sanctions. My study consisted of three phases: First, subjects completed a Justice Sensitivity Scale and then rated the appropriateness of punishment options (retributive or restorative) to handle a criminal scenario. Second, participants’ selective attention was indicated by their recall of pertinent features from three ambiguous criminal scenarios. Finally, participants were primed with either restorative justice or neutral control words, and rated the appropriateness of punishment options to handle a new criminal scenario. These phases addressed the following three questions: (1) How do individual differences in justice sensitivity affect assignment of punishment? (2) Do individual differences in justice sensitivity influence selective attention (as measured through memory)? and (3) Through priming, can an individual’s punishment decisions be altered? 

 

After completing statistical analyses of the data, results showed that an individual’s justice sensitivity scores significantly predicted the types of facts of a criminal scenario that they recalled. This indicated differences in selective attention for people high on “victim sensitivity” (a concern about justice for themselves) versus high on “observer sensitivity” (a concern about justice for others). The data revealed that people with higher victim sensitivity recalled more retributive-related facts and people with higher observer sensitivity recalled more restorative-related facts. The facts that made up the scenarios were classified as either retributive or restorative focused (i.e., an internal vs. external attribution for the crime) before participants completed the study. Additionally, although statistically non-significant, one’s justice sensitivity was correlated with the punishment option chosen, such that high victim sensitivity was associated with a preference for the retributive justice process, and high observer sensitivity was associated with a preference for the restorative justice process. 

 

The results of my study reinforce the known subjectivity in the U.S. criminal justice system, and suggest that people may be making legal decisions based more on their personal opinions and beliefs, rather than factual evidence. It is also important to note that discrepancies in assignment of punishments may be strongly affected simply by the information to which an individual is attending. I am hoping that the results of this study will encourage judges, juries, and community leaders to support sanctions based upon knowledge and information of their effectiveness, rather than allowing our individual personalities to guide our decisions. There is a need for more education surrounding restorative and retributive justice, along with improvements in the way in which society discusses issues of justice. I am very excited to be beginning my first post-Bowdoin job this month at the Red Hook Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, New York. As the nation’s first multijurisdictional community court, Red Hook is implementing restorative justice practices, along with aiming to answer many of the questions I have been researching. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to put my academic work and interests into direct action!

Assigning Legal Punishment:  Individual Differences in Justice Sensitivity and Selective Attention” 

 

Emily Weinberger's Bowdoin College Honors Thesis Focuses on Restorative Justice

 

My interest in restorative justice developed last summer during a 10-week internship at the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic at Maine Law. Working in the Juvenile Justice Clinic, I had the opportunity to be a part of a campaign team that has been trying to bring a variety of reforms through legislation to the juvenile system in Maine.

 

Over the summer, I focused some of my research and data collection specifically on restorative justice policies. This exposure to criminal justice legislation made me aware of how effective restorative justice practices have been in reducing crime and recidivism, and I became eager to delve deeper into the topic.

When I returned to Bowdoin for my senior year, I knew I wanted to do something to combine my major in Psychology with my interest in criminal justice for an honors thesis project. As I began an extensive literature review, I became intrigued by the topic of psychology of punishment—how do judges and juries make decisions? Why are there such discrepancies in legal sanctions across the country? And most importantly, if restorative justice has proven to be so effective, then why has it not gained more traction in our country?

 

I developed an empirical psychology study with the help of my thesis advisor, Professor Louisa Slowiaczek, and the great guidance of Professor Craig McEwen.  My research explored peoples’ decision-making processes to better understand the inconsistencies in punishment decisions in the U.S. legal system. 

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