Midcoast, Maine

Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation

Midcoast, Maine

BCJI Funding Year: FY2019

BCJI Awardee: Restorative Justice Project Maine

Research Partner: University of Southern Maine Justice Policy Program

Focus Area: Prosecutorial District 6 - Population 149,085

Challenges: Rural Crime

Neighborhood Characteristics

Midcoast Maine (Prosecutorial District 6) is a rural area encompassing Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, and Sagadahoc counties. Just over half of the 149,085 residents live in unincorporated areas or cities with populations smaller than 2,200. Across the four counties, there were 99 reported violent crimes, and 1,552 reported property crimes in 2017. Consistently identified sub-populations include: justice-impacted adults, releases from reentry center, releases from 72-hour holds, youth (ages 14-24) impacted by system involvement, releases from Long Creek Youth Development Center, other congregate care settings, women and girls, families impacted by domestic violence and substance use disorders, peer recovery community, and children impacted by generational incarceration. 

Inequality is a growing problem in the area, exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing, living wages, and transportation. 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.  Poverty is also a determining factor, especially in Knox and Waldo counties where poverty rates have been higher than Maine averages. 

Planning Phase

The vision for this project is to design an infrastructure that will increase belonging and safety using restorative philosophy and values that can decrease criminal justice system involvement in a rural setting. This place-based model and infrastructure is called Community Justice Centers (CJCs). These centers will promote belonging and safety through increased community connections built restoratively around the factors that drive crime in rural communities. In addition, CJCs will offer all community members the opportunity to use restorative practices to process harm and provide meaningful ways to build social cohesion.

Key milestones of the Planning Phase will include:

  • Formalizing the project leadership
  • Conduct asset mapping and gather initial qualitative and quantitative data
  • Data analysis
  • Draft the Action Plan
  • Engage cross-sector collaborative partners as Advisory Partners
  • Decide and prioritize the final project results, goals, and strategy populations
  • Outline and initiate engagement with CJC Steering Teams
  • Finalize the Action Plan

The CJC Steering Teams, with guidance from the Advisory Partners, will select strategies during the Implementation Phase centered around four goals:

  1. Reducing system involvement and diverting people to appropriate preventions, interventions, and care.
  2. Creating and employing protective factors and measuring their impact on belonging, connection, and social capital.
  3. Reducing harm and crime drivers through cross-sector collaboration (building and deepening connection to community and prosocial relationships; improving housing, income, treatment options, etc.).
  4. Tracking cost effectiveness.

Implementation Strategies

The vision for this project is to design an infrastructure/model that will increase belonging and safety, particularly for those directly impacted by justice-system involvement, using a restorative justice lens. This place-based model and infrastructure is called Community Justice Hubs (CJHs).  

CJHs will: 

  • Promote belonging and safety through increased community connections, built restoratively around factors that drive crime in rural communities.  
  • Offer all community members the opportunity to use restorative practices to process harm and provide meaningful ways to build social cohesion.   
  • Decrease crime – specifically, the decriminalization of social problems – and overreliance on law enforcement and the justice system to address social problems. 
  • Build community capacity to reduce victimization by supporting systemic change in policy, practice, and resource flows. 
  • A “hot spot” is defined for this project site as “communities lacking social capital, belonging, and restorative opportunities.”   

Key milestones include: 

  • Conducting asset mapping and gathering initial qualitative and quantitative data. 
  • Engaging cross-sector collaborations with Regional Advisory Partners and county level Steering Teams. 
  • Conducting crime data analysis with Advisory Partner Team across four counties. 
  • Conducting initial and ongoing Listening Circles with diverse sectors in each county, resulting in the creation of local county Steering Teams. 
  • Recruiting, training, and supporting county Steering Teams to interpret data that informs their choice of crime type and strategy population for their county. 

At the conclusion of the 4-year grant, we will have established a regional perspective on rural crime, created greater community level engagement, reduced the number of citizens having contact with law enforcement for non-violent crimes, and established four CJHs.

The goal of the CJH Steering Teams, with guidance from Advisory Partners, will be to select and implement strategies centered around four goals: 

  • Reducing system involvement and diverting people to appropriate preventions, interventions, reintegration supports and care.  
  • Creating and employing protective factors and measuring their impact (belonging, safety, social capital). 
  • Reducing harm and crime drivers through cross sector collaboration by building/deepening connection to community, prosocial relationships, and access to improved housing, income, treatment options, etc. 
  • Tracking cost effectiveness. 

Other Key Partners

Maine State Legislature, District Attorney's Office for Prosecutorial District 6, Midcoast Community Council, local sheriff's offices, Maine Department of Corrections, local county and town governments

This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2018-BJ-BX-K035 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.

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