Restorative Justice Project loses founding executive director
Belfast — For eight years, Margaret Micolichek has been the face, the heart and the soul of the Restorative Justice Project of the Midcoast.
On Oct. 1, she will step down from her position as RJP’s executive director, though she will stay in the area and do consulting and training in the field that has become her life’s work. Micolichek hopes to attend a three-month residency through the International Rotary Foundation Peace Fellows Program that is held at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand. Becoming a Fellow for Peace and Conflict Resolution “would provide me with a global experience of working toward and maintaining peace and justice on an international level,” she said in a news release.
Jay Davis, president of the RJP board of directors, said, “It’s difficult to think of RJP without Margaret, but she has given us enough notice so we can do that, in both the short term and beyond. Margaret has been an inspirational leader for RJP, and we wish her all the best in her continuing work for peace and justice.”
Beginning Oct. 1, RJP board member Bill Walch of Boston and Tenants Harbor will assume the position of interim director with the expectation that a permanent successor to Micolichek will be on-board by spring 2014.
Walch spent most of his career working for such large nonprofits as Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Chicago Medical Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, specializing in marketing and development. In 1991 he founded DCA, a Boston-based consulting firm, and developed a new methodology for nonprofit organization and management. Walch said he is impressed with the accomplishments of RJP and he plans to help RJP increase its revenues and expand its programs.
RJP began life in Waldo County eight years ago, with Micolichek at its helm since its founding. Initially working with the court system on a diversion program for juveniles, RJP soon expanded into a mentoring program for inmates at the former Waldo County Jail and training for teachers and administrators in restorative alternatives to suspensions, detentions and expulsions for students. The project has expanded over the years and now reaches into Lincoln and Knox counties with the court diversion program and continues to support adult reentry through mentoring and teaching victim-impact classes at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center. The Restorative School Practices of Maine is a program of RJP and works with schools statewide. To fulfill its mission, RJP depends on its dedicated 50 to 75 volunteers who mentor juveniles from the court diversion program and reentry center residents.
Since 2005, 170 juvenile offenders and 48 adult offenders have participated in an RJP Community Resolution Conference; 90 percent successfully completed their agreements to repair the harm, and had their charges dismissed or reduced. Altogether, they contributed more than 4,000 hours of community service and paid more than $11,000 in restitution.
In RJP’s work with Reentry Center residents since 2009, more than 80 percent of the men have had a mentor and of those men mentored and released, only 16 percent have recidivated, in contrast to the state average of 58 percent.
Restorative School Practices has trained more than 1,800 teachers, staff and administrators in restorative practices, impacting 10,635 students in more than 200 schools and, in some schools, reducing detentions by 42 percent and suspensions and expulsions by 72 percent.
All three programs use the principles of restorative justice, which include taking responsibility for crimes and anti-social behavior, repairing the harm done to victims and involving the community in responses to wrongdoing. Micolichek said one of her biggest accomplishment has been “educating and engaging the community to work with the criminal justice system as well as bringing awareness to the criminal justice system about alternative ways of creating accountability when dealing with crime.”
Micolichek, a native of Wisconsin who worked in Massachusetts prisons with the families of female prisoners before coming to Waldo County, wrote in a letter to volunteers, “I feel proud of what we have been able to achieve in the past eight years and look forward to seeing what can happen next to further the systemic changes and paradigm shifts we envision for our community.”
The board and staff are planning a farewell party for Margaret and encourage everyone who has worked with and supported the organization to join in what is being called an Open House Celebration and Appreciation. It is Friday, Sept. 27, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. in RJP’s second-floor office above Chase’s Daily in Belfast.