A Time of Radical Reimagining
Dear Friend of RJI:
In 2014 two rookie officers with the NYPD shot a Black man to death on a weekday afternoon on a busy commercial street outside my office window. A pedestrian was also injured by a stray bullet that day.
At least a hundred New Yorkers witnessed this violent encounter and its aftermath. But if you weren’t in the neighborhood at the time, you probably didn’t hear about it. The killing was deemed justified and the story was quickly eclipsed by other “more newsworthy” items.
The next morning when I arrived at work, the discount clothing chain store in front of which the shooting occurred, had boarded up their shattered window and placed a sale rack in the spot where the dead man’s body lay the previous afternoon. It was back to business as usual… literally.
In the three weeks since George Floyd gasped for breath and called for his mother under the knee of Derek Chauvin, people around the globe have taken to the streets to say, “no more business as usual.” This type of casual, indifferent and unaccountable violence against Black people is unacceptable and it has to stop. But it’s important to remember that it’s not limited to law enforcement agencies, and reform alone won’t bring about the change that’s needed.
This is a time of radical reimagining, not just of our institutions, but of society as a whole. As such it is a fertile moment for the restorative justice movement.
This is the time for us to change our language, to stop labeling people based on their worst mistakes, to stop pretending that the criminal legal system was designed to achieve justice.
This is the time to debunk the widely-held belief that accountability is synonymous with punishment.
This is the time to seek healing wherever there is harm, regardless of whether that harm is has been designated a crime.
This is the time for us to put relationships first.
This is the time for those of us with privilege to listen deeply and with great humility and respect to those that have been directly impacted by the punitive systems that were designed to protect and serve some but not all.
At Restorative Justice Initiative we know that restorative approaches are key to achieving safety, accountability, justice and peace. We look forward to continuing to work with practitioners and other stakeholders across the City to ensure that New York embraces the full transformative potential of restorative justice.