Restorative Justice in the Community
Bronx Community Justice has been running circles in the Bronx since May 2018, and the community is already yearning for more circle opportunities. When conducting outreach for community member volunteers, community members often express that community justice is long overdue in the Bronx. Potential volunteers express an eagerness to participate in the program, and frequently ask if it is possible for them to refer members of the community who have been arrested. Khalil, one our regular community member volunteers who is also heavily involved in community organizing and violence prevention in the Bronx, expressed his gratitude for the BCJ restorative circle model. After being trained in restorative practices by BCJ staff, he now brings the circle model into his daily community work, and has begun implementing restorative justice circles in his meetings with young people. Khalil has expressed an interest in taking BCJ’s work even further, stating: “how can we take what we’re already doing, and bring it to the next level? What we’re doing is building a great base, but I want to take this further.” Khalil hopes to further incorporate restorative circles into the Soundview community and utilize them to connect to young men as a tool for violence prevention.
Similarly, Tommy, a community leader in the Central Bronx, shared: “I love what you guys are doing, and I love to support it. People of color in the Bronx have been disproportionately punished for years, and this can help balance the scales. But I want to move to the next step, how can we make this longer term? How can we involve the community and bring this to them?” Tommy shared a vision of creating opportunities for ongoing circles to help build a sense of community in the Bronx River area, and to prevent potential violence in the neighborhood. Community members have also demonstrated a powerful commitment to the program. James, a 28-year-old community member who works 80 hours a week, uses his one day off to attend a three-hour circle with our program every Tuesday. James frequently shares with our participants that restorative justice circles have become therapeutic for him, and he now hopes to shift careers to become a restorative justice facilitator to help community members who are justice-involved. James is committed to volunteering with our program, and is eager to see how restorative justice can be used within his community. The dedication and enthusiasm our BCJ community members provides the BCJ staff with the motivation and enthusiasm to continue to expand the use of restorative justice practices in the Bronx, and provides critical insight into the interests and needs of the Bronx community.