Building Community Safety

For too long, this country has made “safety” synonymous with jails, prisons, and a sprawling criminal-legal system. But this notion of “safety” has failed us. Investments in these systems do not address significant harms that communities experience every day, including environmental hazards, unsafe workplaces, housing and food insecurity, economic instability, domestic violence, exposure to deportation, and so much more. Moreover, these systems have made many people feel less safe by directly perpetrating harm and by exacerbating racial, economic, and gender injustices. 

Our vision is of a new paradigm that approaches safety in a different way—a paradigm that uses cross-sectoral, people-centered investments to prevent violence and harm before they happen. And our Community Safety Project, the thematic center of our policy work, is dedicated to making this new paradigm a reality. 

Through the Community Safety Project, we create cutting-edge policy proposals, policy guides, evidence briefs, and other resources that help advance community safety nationwide. We provide counsel to local advocates and policymakers who seek to enact these policies. And working with our close partners, we undertake and coordinate advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels to make these law and budget changes possible. 

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Spotlights

The following campaigns represent a sampling of our Community Safety Project initiatives. Please contact us for additional information, questions, or a summary of campaigns not listed here.

The People’s Response Act

The People’s Response Act, introduced by Representative Cori Bush, presents a new framework for approaching safety—a framework that moves the notion of “safety” outside of criminal-legal institutions. Adopting the framework from Section 2 of The BREATHE Act, the bill creates a new Division of Community Safety within the Department of Human Health and Services. Next, it uses this Division to make robust, community-centered investments in non-carceral first responders, violence interrupters, mental health and substance use treatment, employment and housing support, and other items that address the root causes of violence and harm.

See here for a one-pager on the legislation. See here for the official press release. And see here for a petition that you can use to show Congress your support for the PRA.

The Harris County Community Safety Agenda

The Harris County Community Safety Agenda. The Harris County Community Safety Agenda is a local project that Civil Rights Corps is currently supporting—a project designed to support the Texas Jail Project and other Harris County partners while they build a proactive, cross-sectoral vision for how Harris County, Texas can keep its residents safe. The project brings together a collective of advocates from varied spaces—from health, housing, and economic justice to education, criminal-legal policy change, and climate justice—around a shared Agenda that knits these wide-ranging investments through a safety lens. 

See here for a short overview of this project idea.

FY23 Community Safety Appropriations Agenda

Civil Rights Corps and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights are bringing together a cross-sectoral group of advocates who are dedicated to using the federal appropriations process as a way of advancing community safety. Priorities in this space include funding for civilian crisis response, community mental health workers, supportive housing, and good, green jobs.

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Policy Resources

The following information represents a sampling of our Community Safety Project initiatives. Please contact us for additional information, questions, or a summary of campaigns not listed here.

Guides
  • Civil Rights Corps guide on using the Fiscal Recovery Fund and other grants in the American Rescue Plan to fund housing, healthcare, and other holistic investments to promote community safety. 
  • Civil Rights Corps guide on using Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act funds to make safety-enhancing changes to the built environment and undue problems caused by disinvestment and other infrastructure policies that have harmed Black and Brown communities. 
  • Civil Rights Corps, Movement For Black Lives, and  Essie Justice Group guides for local governments and state governments on implementing a community safety policy that is shaped by community members and incorporates periodic needs assessments. 

Civil Rights Corps explainer on the evidence tying built design, housing, economic security, and many more non-carceral interventions to community safety, showing research on how investments in these fields reduce violence and crime.

Teach-Ins & Webinars
  • Recording of the teach-in with state and local lawmakers and advocates to present the guides and discuss implementing the core tenets of the People’s Response Act both federally and at the state and local level (password: wUh^s+w6). 
  • Recording of the teach-in explaining how The People’s Response Act will build up the infrastructure for non-carceral community safety across the country. Hear directly from advocates, artists, organizers, academics, and practitioners about how this bill would transform the safety landscape, expand federal funding for grassroots organizations, and save lives.

Recording of the PRA Day public health panel, where health professionals talk about non-carceral, non-punitive responses to public safety and why public safety is a public health crisis.

Media & Narrative Resources

Vision for Justice: Reimagining Public Safety. The finale of the Vision for Justice miniseries where guest host, Monifa Bandele, Movement for Black Lives Leadership Team, reimagines public safety with Thea Sebastian, Director of Policy, Civil Rights Corps, Alphonso David, President of Human Rights Campaign, and Eunisses Hernandez, Executive Director and Co-founder of La Defensa.

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