The Portland Center for Restorative Justice is a volunteer-run organization that provides restorative justice facilitation and consultation services to individuals and organizations in the Greater Portland, Maine community. Our mission is to offer a safe and respectful setting where healing can occur, for youths and for adults, using Community Circles or Facilitated Dialogues.
Our version of Restorative Justice emphasizes ways to assist those who have been harmed to give voice to the full impact of what they’ve experienced. We also ensure that their needs for safety and healing will be addressed, and that they will have a powerful voice in shaping what form justice should take. Second, our approach to Restorative Justice emphasizes ways that those who have committed harm may step into accountability and be restored to their best selves. A beginning step on this road is to fully face the extent of the harm they have caused by hearing directly from the people who have been harmed. Third, our orientation to Restorative Justice addresses ways that communities torn apart by violence and trauma may find a way to bind themselves together again.
The Portland Center for Restorative Justice believes Black lives matter. We stand in solidarity with the activists demanding social change in response to the centuries of oppression experienced by people of color at the hands of white people in the United States. We condemn the violence that law enforcement has perpetrated against these communities. We call for a restorative response to these injustices. We also commit ourselves anew to examining ways we may inadvertently perpetuate systems of injustice, and to critically examine our own assumptions, values and effects.
Influenced by the work of Kay Pranis, the Center creates “Circles” as a forum for resolving conflict. Based on Native American traditions of Talking Circles, this practice allows for a more communal response to issues such as crime and violence. The goals of a Circle may include creating a witness for those harmed by crime, assisting in accountability for those who have created harm, and also creating pathways for those who have harmed to be reincorporated into community.
Dialogues bring together people who have experienced harm with those responsible for that harm. In a supportive and confidential environment, the victim(s) can express their experiences as fully as they need to. This process creates a context where offenders are able to take in the true impact of their actions. For one who has been harmed, witnessing meaningful remorse is often a profoundly healing experience. Dialogues provide an opportunity for a victim to ask all the questions they might have about an incident. The outcome is always a unique agreement which the parties work out jointly, a process which is healing for the victim and empowering for the offender.
The Center also offers training in Restorative Justice practices to schools, correctional facilities, and other settings. Our training programs help shift perspective from an emphasis on retribution and punishment, to an emphasis on healing and reincorporation into community. We teach skills in deep listening; evoking emotionally evocative accounts of harm; and creating conversations that heighten accountability. As shifting to a Restorative Justice approach requires sustained skill-building over time, we also assist organizations with ongoing supervision and "tune-ups."