Reflections on a Year Like None Other
A year after New York’s lockdown began in March 2020, we are reflecting on 12 months of restorative justice work within the context of the global pandemic. In late 2020, we sent out a survey to gauge how Covid-19 was impacting our local community of restorative justice practitioners. The responses were eye-opening:
52% of respondents told us that their primary place of practice is closed due to Covid-19, while 36% have lost work or have been laid off due to the pandemic.
While job security for RJ practitioners has clearly been a challenge, the nature of the work itself has also changed. Many respondents noted that the pandemic has opened people up to the realities of political, racial, and socioeconomic division, calling for a deepened need to heal.
The majority of respondents said that while restorative justice is necessary “more than ever before,” physical disconnection and heightened stress around resources have made it difficult to practice.
While a lot of the response to harm work that people take on as consultants has decreased because communities are not sharing physical space, the need for alternative places of togetherness and healing has increased.
This is a moment to reframe restorative justice as a practice that does not begin with a response to harm but rather with belonging and care within the community. Without community building as its foundation, meaningful, deepened relationships can easily get lost in this work.
Despite all of the challenges, our community has also adapted well to this moment. From “returning to the basics” of restorative justice, to adapting circles to Zoom and other digital spaces, to building space to talk about the impact of the events of the past year, the work has evolved in new, but still meaningful ways.
Restorative justice is a practice with a sense of timelessness and there will never be a time where this work is not needed. As we move forward into whatever the future may hold, we know that restorative justice work is essential.
We will continue to face its challenges together and to advocate for conditions that allow us to more wholly invest in ourselves and the communities we care for in this work.
Photo in header by Anooj Bhandari