Growing to Respond to a Dynamic Network
In the fall of 2020, we published a citywide directory in order to create more visibility and access to organizations, facilitators, and circle keepers committed to the expansion of restorative practices across New York City. As we are updating current listings and adding new ones, we are reflecting on the changes that have taken place across New York City’s restorative justice landscape and where it’s headed.
The interplay between restorative justice (RJ) advocacy and implementation in schools continues to shift. Schools are spending more energy navigating the changing COVID protocols and the immediate, often pressing, needs of students, parents, and educators have made the day-to-day practice of restorative justice harder to implement.
Even with a new administration in City Hall, there hasn’t been much change in the aspects of the city budget that impact the criminalization of youth in schools. As a result, the need for community organizing and advocacy for increased city investment in restorative justice in schools remains strong.
In addition, many in-school RJ coordinators have shifted out of their roles to new schools, or out of schools altogether since 2020.
We have also learned that many of our primary contacts for restorative justice at community based organizations have moved out of their organizational roles to become independent contractors and consultants.
This shift reflects widespread employment trends, but it also reflects an ongoing tension within the field about restorative and transformative justice work situated within institutions. This tension emerges regularly in our conversations with practitioners, so to see it reflected within these changing roles is not surprising.
The pandemic has also accelerated the growth of digital organizing as a primary tool for engagement. We have seen an exponential increase in digital content from longer form news articles, blog posts and online tools exploring restorative practice to social media memes offering just a taste of RJ.
In this environment of increased digital engagement and less face to face relationship-building opportunities within a growing network, maintaining a nuanced understanding of restorative justice has been challenging.
We envision a robust, multi-sector restorative justice landscape in New York City that reflects the diversity of our city while prioritizing the needs of New Yorkers that have been most impacted by punitive systems.
Over time, we hope to see more hyper-local organizing and programming that responds to the needs of specific communities. Tracking the changes in the landscape over time allows us to identify some key questions as we pave that path:
- Who has access to restorative practices right now and through what means?
- What does that say about access in general across lines of race, class, ability, and geography?
- How do we address these questions in a way that builds relationships between and among institution-based restorative justice and community-based restorative justice?