UMA’s Maine State Forum series invites prominent Maine policymakers to speak at the University of Maine at Augusta on topics of interest to the Maine community. The questions and answer format after the presentation allows attendees to learn and interact with policymakers in the news.

The Maine State Forum is funded by a UMA Research and Innovation grant, and is coordinated by Professor Sharon McMahon Sawyer of the Justice Studies Department.

Maine State Forum Archive

UMA’s Maine State Forum Series presents: Restorative Justice and Healing a Community–the Penobscot Nation Tribal Wellness Court

UMA’s Maine State Forum Series welcomed Chief Judge Eric Mehnert and Rhonda Decontie, Clerk of the Court of the Penobscot Nation Tribal Court (and UMA Alumna) for a discussion on how the Healing to Wellness Court employs restorative justice principles to address social problems within the community. The webinar event was well attended and can be viewed below.

The Penobscot Nation Tribal Court “combines judicial oversight and powers of the Tribal Court with local healing and wellness services to better address any and all underlying or co-occurring substance or mental health issues of the court-involved individuals.”

“We are very pleased that Judge Mehnert will teach a new course on Tribal Law at UMA in the spring semester of 2022, and this presentation provided a preview of the concepts that will be part of the new course offering,” stated Sharon McMahon Sawyer, Associate Professor and Program Coordinator of Justice Studies. “At present, this is the only tribal law course offered in the Eastern United States.”


Investigative Journalist Wessler spoke on recent investigation on failed oversight in the US Marshals Service’s detention system

Photo of Seth Freed Wessler, Investigative Journalist. Photo credit:
Photo of Seth Freed Wessler, Investigative Journalist. Photo credit:

The Maine State Forum series hosted Seth Wessler, Investigative Journalist on Wednesday, October 30, 2019 at the University of Maine at Augusta’s Jewett Hall Auditorium, Augusta campus. Mr. Wessler discussed his investigative work regarding the lack of oversight in the US Marshal Services’ detention system, as recently published in Mother Jones and NPR.

About the Speaker

Seth Freed Wessler is a Peabody Award and Hillman Prize-winning investigative reporter and a fellow at Type Investigations (formerly called The Nation Institute). He has reported for The New York Times Magazine, The Nation, ProPublica, the Smithsonian Magazine, This American Life, Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting, and other outlets.

His work on immigration enforcement, federal prisons, and social services has spurred legislative reforms, inspired advocacy campaigns, and led to shifts in federal and state policy.

Restraint and Seclusion

The Maine State Forum series partnered with the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council for a screening of “The Kids We Lose,” a documentary which details, through interviews and footage from across the country, the rise of punitive interventions such as restraint and seclusion in dealing with children with behavioral challenges.

Immediately following the film, a panel discussion on Restraint and Seclusion was held with stakeholders, including parents and educators, as well as experts in child development and alternative techniques in dealing with behaviorally challenged children. Panelists include Nancy Cronin, MA, (moderator), Dr. Ross Greene, Ph.D., Cathy Dionne, and Benjamin Jones, Esq.. This event seeks to raise awareness about the practice of restraint and seclusion and the alternatives that are available. This forum occurred on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019.

Sexual Assault and Intellectually Challenged Persons

This forum was organized by the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council and was moderated by Dr. Brenda McAleer, Dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of Maine at Augusta. The speakers include a representative from “Speaking Up,” a self-advocacy organization for people with developmental disabilities; Nancy Cronin, Executive Director of Maine Developmental Disabilities Council; Katy Park, LSW/DSP, and Donna Strickler, Executive Director of the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center. This forum occurred on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, at UMA’s Augusta Campus.

Accessing your VA Benefts: What you need to know

A general overview of the services provided by Togus Veterans Administration, and a discussion of benefits available for veterans including educational, medical, and other services. The panel of VA benefits experts includes: Jim Doherty, Public Affairs Officer for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and Operation New Dawn (OND); Patrick Crowley, Outreach Manager for the Veterans Benefits Administration; LaRhonda Harris, Women Veterans Program Manager; Nancy Laffin, Outreach Manager for the Lewiston Vet Center; Jim Christie, VA Community Outreach Specialist; and Amy Line, UMA Director of Military and Veteran Services.This forum occurred on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, at UMA’s Augusta Campus.

Training Law Enforcement Officers in Maine

John Rogers, Director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, discusses current training programs for Maine law enforcement officers and corrections personnel. The Maine Criminal Justice Academy offers basic training for Law Enforcement and Corrections personnel, as well as in-service training for law enforcement and correctional officers such as Supervisor Development, Executive Development and New Chiefs/Sheriffs Seminar. The Academy also offers investigative courses in Intelligence Gathering, Interview and Interrogation, Police Photography, Evidence Collection, and Drafting Effective Search Warrants. Maine requires all its police officers be trained through the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. This forum occurred on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at UMA’s Augusta Campus.

Innovative Programs at the Maine State Prison

Warden Randall Liberty discusses the innovative programs he has developed at the Maine State Prison and how these unique rehabilitation programs, including inmate gardening and recycling, a veterans’ pod, and education programs, have affected those incarcerated, as well as the institution. Liberty is a graduate of UMA and was appointed as warden of the Maine State Prison in 2015. Prior to that, Randall was Sheriff in Kennebec County for seven years. This forum occurred on Wednesday, November 29, 2017, at UMA’s Augusta Campus.

Co Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court

Kennebec County Sheriff Ken Mason and Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney who will be discuss the Co-Occurring Disorders and Veterans Court and answer audience questions on this topic on Wednesday, October 25, 2017, at UMA’s Augusta Campus.

Is Resilience Part of Your Personal Health Care?

Dr. Richard Lumb has published two books and several other publications, and continues to research and train first responders in developing resiliency in their personal and professional lives. This forum occurred on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at UMA’s Augusta Campus.