OurRJ Receives Cummings Foundation $100K for 100 Award!


Contact: Meghan Higgins, Our Restorative Justice, 724-987-3063, meghanhiggins@ourrj.net

Contact: Julie DeSilva, Cummings Foundation, 781-932-7093, jmd@cummings.com

Our Restorative Justice awarded $100,000

Lowell nonprofit receives Cummings Foundation grant

Lowell, June 16, 2017 - Our Restorative Justice is one of 100 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s “$100K for 100” program. The Lowell-based organization was chosen from a total of 549 applications, during a competitive review process.

Our Restorative Justice (OurRJ) provides marginalized youth and young adults with an alternative approach to justice that disrupts the school to prison pipeline. By giving young people a voice, and coalescing systems of support around them, we create institutions in which all young people thrive.

Representing OurRJ, Susan Maze-Rothstein, Board President and Acting Executive Director, as well as Eli Plenk, Program Manager, joined approximately 300 other guests at a reception at TradeCenter 128 in Woburn to celebrate the $10 million infusion into Greater Boston’s nonprofit sector. With the conclusion of this grant cycle, Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $170 million to local nonprofits alone. 

“We are deeply appreciative of Cummings Foundation for their incredible commitment to Massachusetts communities and cannot wait to use this award to bring the transformative power of restorative justice to more youth, families, and communities in the Commonwealth,” said Plenk.

According to Maze-Rothstein, “This award will allow us to strengthen our Middlesex County case-based models and divert more young people out of the juvenile justice system, providing them with an opportunity to avoid a lifelong criminal record. It will also support us as we increasingly work alongside schools, helping them to adopt restorative school discipline practices that seek to foster empathy and build strong school communities, rather than excluding and shunning students when mistakes are made. Stemming the school to prison pipeline requires a multi-tiered, systemically-oriented approach, and support from Cummings Foundation will be critical in working towards our goals.”

The $100K for 100 program supports nonprofits that are not only based in but also primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties. This year, the program is benefiting 35 different cities and towns within the Commonwealth.

“Nonprofit organizations like Our Restorative Justice are vital to the local communities where our colleagues and clients live and work,” said Joel Swets, Commings Foundation’s executive director. “We are delighted to invest in their efforts.”

This year’s diverse group of grant recipients represents a wide variety of causes, including homelessness prevention and affordable housing, social justice and justice reform, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. Most of the grants will be paid over two to five years.

The complete list of 100 grant winners is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

About Our Restorative Justice

Our Restorative Justice (OurRJ) provides marginalized youth and young adults with an alternative approach to justice that disrupts the school to prison pipeline. Since 2012, OurRJ has used restorative justice as an alternative to juvenile court that strengthens families, helps build resilient communities, and empowers young people to continue their education and move towards the workforce. By giving young people a voice, and coalescing systems of support around them, we create institutions in which all young people thrive. OurRJ has successfully diverted over 80 youth out of the courts and into our comprehensive, developmentally- responsive, restorative justice program, while serving as a leader in promoting restorative justice in schools and communities throughout the Commonwealth. To learn more, visit www.ourrj.org.

About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings of Winchester. With assets exceeding $1.4 billion, it is one of the largest foundations in New England. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including two New Horizons retirement communities, in Marlborough and Woburn. Its largest single commitment to date was $50 million to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Additional information is available at www.CummingsFoundation.org.

PHOTO: OurRJ’s Board President/Acting Executive Director Susan Maze-Rothstein (center) and Program Manager Eli Plenk (right) at the Grant Winner Celebration.


Why We Believe in Restorative Justice: An Interview With OurRJ's Program Planner

"I think the reason that I’m drawn to it is because it feels so powerful. I think that what young people need is the chance to be heard and respected in their own voice. And they also really need to feel supported and to feel like they’re a part of a community that really cares about them. And I just think that this is a beautiful process for bringing those two things together."



OurRJ believes that restorative justice legislation is a critical component of the battle for equity in Massachusetts.  We have therefore been closely tracking senate bill S.2467, which codifies restorative justice as an alternative to traditional juvenile and adult criminal justice practices. Bill S.2467 was approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee at the end of July.  And, for the first time in a four year effort, a necessary House version of the bill, H.4368 was introduced in the House.  Amendments were offered at the end of the session.  It will be worked on during the fall and then re-filed in January 2017.  We know this signifies increased excitement about restorative justice in the commonwealth and growing support for criminal justice reform both locally and nationally.  We are eager to continue working with our allies in the senate and house to advocate for restorative justice legislation. Head on over to our Legislation page to learn more about the history of restorative justice legislation. And please continue checking our website for updates! 

CQ Researcher on Restorative Justice

CQ Researcher on Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice: Can it help victims and rehabilitate criminals? As calls for criminal justice reform grow louder, some social workers, religious leaders and legal experts want to expand the use of an alternative, nonpunitive system of justice for cases ranging from student conflicts to assaults involving adults.

A Jail Crowding Q&A with Howard Zehr

I spent my 21st birthday inside a maximum security prison in Pennsylvania, on a field trip for a criminal justice course I took during my senior year at Eastern Mennonite University. It was taught by Howard Zehr, who pretty much founded restorative justice as an academic field. Earlier in the semester, I also had my first opportunity to watch proceedings at our General District Court downtown. I remember being pretty confused as to what was actually occurring in the courtroom, which, looking back, was a nice little personal introduction to our extremely confusing and convoluted justice system.

Anyhow, at the second listening session held last month in Harrisonburg on the issue of our increasingly crowded jail, I was surprised how many people used the term “restorative justice” in their pleas that we not simply build a bigger jail. Afterwards, I dropped in on Howard, who lives in Broadway and now co-directs the Zehr Institute for Restorative Justice at EMU, to talk about jail crowding, local corrections and restorative justice as it pertains to our present situation.