"We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar."
Damian Barr

Dear friends, dear members of the European Forum of Restorative Justice,
A warm welcome to the second issue of this newsletter for 2020. On behalf of the EFRJ and the Editorial Committee, I am happy to introduce you to a thematic issue on restorative justice in these times of global crisis. Reflections are provided by restorative justice researchers and practitioners from across the globe about how social and criminal justice systems have been affected by the pandemic and about what ways forward can be offered by restorative justice.

A special acknowledgement goes to Robert Shaw, Júlia Barjau Dachs, Bálint Juhász and Emanuela Biffi for their support throughout the whole process. Furthermore, my sincere gratitude heartily goes to the authors, who enthusiastically agreed to contribute and to take us across Europe — to Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK — and beyond European borders, all the way to New York, Shanghai, Wellington and New Delhi. As a proof (if we still needed one) of one of the main lessons that we should learn from Covid-19, borders are fictitious and the world where we live proves to be more and more just one human community, inextricably interconnected, through good and bad.

"This crisis has been permeating and changing our lives, overturning our certainties."

The idea of focusing this issue on the current health crisis, and some of its many consequences, mainly comes from the recognition that something dramatic- ally epochal happened and all of us — in particular, restorative justice professionals and advocates, work- ing with the deepest human emotions and dealing with the worst and the best that we, as human beings, have to offer — need to look carefully at the consequences of this crisis and all work together to repair the harm caused, in all the different shapes that this harm has been taking.

This crisis has been permeating and changing our lives, overturning our certainties. This dramatic change has to do with the massive loss and grief that some countries in particular have, and will have to deal with, as well as the all new forms of violations and conflict that we now find we have to address. It also includes many aspects of our daily life, from the way we work to the way we walk in the street, the way we relate to each other, as well as the way we perceive solidarity and collective responsibility.

One of the unique aspects of this emergency has in fact been that nobody has been spared. We have all suffered, either directly from the virus or from the consequences — emotional and material — of the lockdown measures and restrictions. Celebrities as well as heads of state became infected and some of them lost their lives; every one of us was somehow obliged to renounce something. But, if there is something else that this pandemic has taught us (or reminded us), it is that, although potentially nobody is spared, the most vulnerable among us keep being the most exposed and the most hard hit.

"We are learning, the hard way, how we have (not) been taken care of our past and the way we are (not) willing to take care of our future."

In some villages in Northern Italy, as The Guardian headlined it last March, ‘A generation has died.’ Across the globe, the generation of our older people has been dramatically impacted by loss, while children and the younger generation — although being the least affected by the virus itself — have proved to be among the most affected by the effects of the crisis management. We are learning, the hard way, how we have (not) been taken care of our past and the way we are (not) willing to take care of our future.

We see how: 

  • minorities are strongly hit by the economic consequences of the pandemic and in some cases even pointed at as scapegoats of the spread of the disease;
  •  violence against women and children is rising in domestic contexts in times of lockdown;
  • women largely suffer from unemployment and burnout;
  • LGBTQI people have been made even more silent and unseen;
  • migrant people are more than ever perceived as them as opposed to us;
  • the justice systems have stopped working, procedural safeguards have been suspended and human rights’ protection put on hold in the name of the containment of the spread of Covid-19;
  • people in detention have been made even more invisible, while remaining exposed both to the virus and to harmful treatment.

While there is not one solution to all this pain and harm, many creative, flexible and communitarian solutions can come and are already been offered by restorative justice: a form of justice that can make us work on that sense of collective responsibility and solidarity that we need now, more than ever. This is precisely what the authors who contributed to this issue propose and put forward from all their different, but in many ways close, local experiences.

Claudia Mazzucato, professor at the Catholic University in Milan, opens the newsletter with a testimonial from Lombardy, Italy, one of the regions of the world most hit by Covid-19 incidence. She takes us through the sorrow and harm experienced by herself and her people, towards the powerful proposition of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in response to this tragedy.

This contribution is followed by one from Lucille Rivin, restorative justice practitioner from New York, who presents the challenges experienced in her city, another one of the epicentres of the pandemic — as well as a country with one of the most unjust criminal justice and health care systems. She particularly draws our attention to the restorative justice initiatives initiated over these months to address the needs of children and communities.

The journey then proceeds eastwards, with the reflections of Arti Mohan, restorative practitioner from New Delhi, who takes us through the social injustices exacerbated by the health crisis in India and the hope that restorative spaces and collective responses and responsibility can bring.

Xiaoyu Yuan, lecturer at Shanghai University, and Xiaoye Zhang, lecturer at East China University, show us part of the effects of the pandemic in China, from a very much neglected perspective, the one of prisons, and in particular prison staff.

From China we move to New Zealand, where Nessa Lynch, professor at Te Herenga Waka, Wellington, and Stephen Woodwark, Judge’s Clerk to the Chief District Court Judge of New Zealand, illustrate how even the case of New Zealand, one of the most successful cases of management of the pandemic (or possibly the most successful), does not come without a great number of inequalities and human rights challenges.

We then travel back to Europe, where we find a thorough picture of how the pandemic and the responses to it have tremendously impacted children and young people, from Maartje Berger, a mediator and a children’s rights expert, who calls for the active involvement of children and the building of effective responses together with them.

After that, Juan José de Lanuza Torres, a mediator in Madrid, in his contribution emphasises the crucial role that restorative justice practices could and should play especially in such a moment of crisis in Spain, where traditional justice finds itself too rigid and stuck by the crisis.

To close this issue, we have two other testimonials, one from the UK and another one from Italy. Belinda Hopkins, activist and restorative practitioner from the UK, shares with us her personal experience of lockdown, offering thoughtful insights from her confinement on launching interesting restorative initiatives in schools.

Finally, Paola Nicolini, associate professor at the University of Macerata, Italy, leaves us with some profound reflections about the serious risks that come with the spread of the expression ‘social distancing’ — as opposed to what should instead be called ‘physical distancing’ — and to the particular care and attention that now, possibly more than ever before, we should take one for the other.

As suggested by our authors, in these unprecedented circumstances where the destiny of the globe proves to be so strictly interconnected, we need to find collective and inclusive solutions and use that interconnectedness as a propulsive to spread solidarity, reparation and healing. We need to find answers all together, to heal and to prevent further harm, providing everybody with a well-equipped boat to weather the (next) storm.

With warmest wishes,

Silvia Randazzo 

Silvia Randazzo

Silvia Randazzo is an Independent Consultant and a PhD Researcher at the KU Leuven University, Belgium. She is the guest editor of the EFRJ Newsletter's current, thematic issue (2/21).