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For Immediate Release

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Rowhan Baptiste
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Press Release

More Than 85 Advocacy Groups Endorse the People's Response Act; Urge Congress to Pass Key Legislation

Newly introduced legislation brings a new focus on public safety as a public health issue, allocates critical resources toward community safety to fill gaps in the current system.
WASHINGTON -

Today, more than 85 advocacy groups announced collective support for the People’s Response Act, which was introduced today by Congresswoman Cori Bush. The newly introduced legislation would fund community-based, health-centered, non-carceral investments in public safety to fill critical gaps in the public safety system which has failed to protect Black people.

The People’s Response Act brings a new focus on public safety as a public health issue and would provide grants at the state and local levels for organizations to develop and support pilot community-based programs. This bill builds on the efforts of Black, Latinx, and working class communities to redefine public safety through community-led, holistic models that have centered care over cages. In defining public safety as a public health issue, this bill allows those efforts to be brought to scale. The People’s Response Act emphasizes a health-centered approach to public safety by empowering the Department of Health and Human Services and promoting interagency collaboration—because communities and experts agree that public safety is not a matter for the Department of Justice alone.The full text of the legislation is available at the peoplesresponseact.com.

"We are thrilled to see the introduction of the People’s Response Act, a bill that centers the critical work Black communities have done to ensure that their communities and their families are safe. We know that despite the said purpose of law enforcement, a carceral model of public safety has been anything but safe for our communities. Instead, and like this bill would do, we must invest in community-based, community-led models that puts people first. Public safety is a public health issue and we must finally invest in the services that truly make us safe. We urge Congress to join Congresswoman Bush, support this bill, and work to create true safety in our communities," said Scott Roberts, Senior Director of Criminal Justice Campaign, Color Of Change. 

“This bill is a continuation of the work that the people of St. Louis and people all across our country have been deeply engaged in since the police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. As an activist who stood on the frontlines of the Ferguson uprising in 2014 and through the summer of protests for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor last year—I believe that our legislation should be responsive to the demands of those of us who risked our lives in pursuit of justice. That demand has always been clear: thriving communities, homes, clean air, and the chance to live a life unencumbered by trauma and senseless violence. This Act brings together a broad coalition of health professionals, advocates, teachers, mental health professionals, peers, counselors, social workers, and movement leaders to build an agency that is rooted in a holistic approach to public safety,” said U.S. Representative Cori Bush (D-MO).

"Punitive tactics such as policing and imprisonment uniquely harm Black women. Police have harmed and killed us and our loved ones, mass incarceration policy has ravaged our communities, and courts have driven us to financial ruin. Despite more resources than it has ever had at its disposal, the criminal justice system fails to protect Black women each step of the way. The People’s Response Act is a sensible approach that would create pathways to harm prevention and violence interruption that are more effective than policing in keeping communities safe. Congresswoman Cori Bush has answered the cry from gender justice, racial justice, and mental health advocates who know that community-led, health-based investments are the only just public safety solution," said Gina Clayton-Johnson, Founder & Executive Director, Essie Justice Group

“The People’s Response Act is transformative legislation that puts us on the path toward achieving our full vision of safety for all Black people. It moves us toward a shared vision of what truly keeps Black people safe: dramatic investments in communities that have suffered from generations of systemic racism and economic exploitation, incentives for local governments to adopt critical non-carceral practices, and the creation of a federal community safety agency to make the critical link between public safety and public health. We demand legislators hold a hearing for the People’s Response Act and move the bill towards passage. We know what it takes to keep our communities safe, that is why we will organize to support Rep. Bush and the bill's co-sponsors to make this approach real for Black people,” said Kayla Reed, Executive Director of Action St. Louis and leader of the Movement for Black Lives’ Electoral Justice Project

The grants provided by the People’s Response Act would allow organizations to scale-up public services and programs including vouchers for supportive housing, community-based employment programs, violence interruption, harm reduction counseling services, school mediation, and treatment for mental health and substance abuse.

The People’s Response Act has garnered support from civic and advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Greenpeace, Black Live Matter, Movement for Black Lives, Essie Justice Group, Dignity and Power Now, Center for Popular Democracy, Human Rights Watch, Sunrise Movement, Latino Justice, National Employment Law Project, Promise of Justice Initiative, Drug Policy Alliance, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Common Justice, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Civil Rights Corps, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Real Justice Network, Equal Justice Under Law, Public Justice Center, Louisiana Survivors for Reform, National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), and Parents Organized for Public Education.

“Rep. Bush's excellent legislation helps create a sustainable federal infrastructure for community safety alternatives to violent policing. If passed, it has the potential to drastically reduce harm and violence in Black and brown communities, and ultimately, transform how we imagine public safety. This is a long overdue move forward, and we applaud Rep. Bush for hearing the calls of the millions of people who've been organizing against police violence over the last year,” said Arvin Alaigh, Campaign Manager, MoveOn.

“Los Angeles County is home to the largest jail system in the nation, but through the tireless work of our community, we are now leading the nation in the development of a Care First vision that prioritizes community-based systems of care over incarceration and policing,” said Ivette Ivette Alé, Senior Policy Lead, Dignity and Power Now. “From the passing of Measure R and Measure J, to the creation of the Alternatives to Incarceration roadmap, we are taking critical steps to transform our county. Federal funding that supports these efforts and invests in our most vulnerable communities will propel this work forward and create the blue-print for national transformation.”

“An actionable, visionary change to the way we approach safety is long overdue. Communities need policies that root safety not in punishment, but in health, education, housing, and the other things that people truly need to thrive. The People’s Response Act is a key step in this direction, and we are thrilled that Rep. Bush is leading this charge,” said Thea Sebastian, Director of Policy, Civil Rights Corps.

“We applaud Representative Bush for proposing solutions that rethink public safety. Far too many people with psychiatric disabilities, and particularly those who are people of color, have died or experienced needless incarceration due to avoidable contacts with law enforcement. Law enforcement should not be the default response to mental health emergencies,” said Jennifer Mathis, Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy, Bazelon Center.

“LiveFree California believes gun violence in this country is at epidemic proportions and it's impact disproportionately felt in marginalized communities and only through focused and intense strategies supported by sufficient funding and effective programs can this be addressed,” said Tim Kornegay, Coalition Director of LivFree California.

"As a national public health organization, we enthusiastically support building community-led, non-punitive public safety systems. We have seen time and again the ways that policing and incarceration threatens community health, especially among Black, Indigenous, immigrant, poor, and unhoused people. This bold legislation is a crucial step to advancing health equity and racial justice,” said Amber Akemi Piatt, Health Instead of Punishment Program Director, Human Impact Partners.

“We cannot expect an institution rooted in the history of American chattel slavery to keep our communities safe. There is no such policy or technology that can reform policing - we need to completely divest from this racist punishment system and seriously tackle the issue of violence. This requires investing in the resources that address the root causes of violence in order to create healthy and safe communities. But it also means investing in the resources that allows us to respond to crises in a principled and dignified way. Our communities have had the courage to envision a world beyond the brutality of our current carceral system and it’s time for our leaders to do the same,” said Myaisha Hayes, Campaign Strategies Director at MediaJustice.

"The Bail Project applauds The People's Response Act for modeling public safety as a public health issue. Investments in people and not incarceration is how we achieve public safety. Through our Community Release with Support model, we have seen time again that housing, employment, mental health care, and other voluntary services can help return a person to court pretrial or keep them out of the system altogether. We look forward to building upon the foundation that this legislation will set in fostering more non-carceral and community-based models to public safety,” said Kanya Bennett, Senior Policy Counsel & Legislative Coalition Manager, The Bail Project.

“Sunrise Movement stands with Rep. Bush in our shared vision of safety that invests in community, care and a non-carceral system,” said Lauren Maunus, Advocacy Director for Sunrise Movement. “Billions of our tax dollars are used to train cops to kill. It's time to defund the police and invest in our communities through legislation like the People's Response Act- doing so would bring us one step closer towards the Green New Deal,” said Lauren Maunus, Sunrise Movement Advocacy Director

Specifically, the People’s Response Act would: 

  • Create a public safety agency within the Department of Health and Human Services to fund and coordinate research, technical assistance, and grant programs related to non-carceral, health-centered investments in public safety. 

  • Establish a First Responders Hiring Grant to award competitive grants through HHS and direct resources to community-based organizations and state, local, and tribal governments to hire emergency first responders, such as licensed social workers, mental health counselors, substance use counselors, and peer counselors, in an effort to improve crisis response and increase non-carceral, health-based approaches to public safety.

  • Fund several grant programs to implement and invest in community-led, health-based investments in public safety.

  • Fund grassroots, community-based organizations to implement non-carceral investments in public safety, including a dedicated grant for violence prevention.

  • Fund and incentivize states and local governments to shrink their criminal-legal systems and invest in community-led, non-carceral, and non-punitive investments in public safety.

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Color Of Change is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. We help people respond effectively to injustice in the world around us. As a national online force driven by over one million members, we move decision-makers in corporations and government to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America.

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