Over 60 civil and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, released a Community Safety agenda for the United States federal government yesterday that champions evidence-based policies and investments aimed at addressing structural causes of violence and inequality.
Extensive evidence shows that investments in non-carceral crisis response, voluntary community mental healthcare, safe and affordable housing, and infrastructure address community needs and the root causes of societal violence. Yet for decades, federal, state, and local authorities have underinvested in these kinds of support while instead pouring billions into punitive, carceral systems that expand the footprint of law enforcement, including excessive pre-trial detention and other systems of coercive state control. These approaches harm communities and exacerbate racial and economic disparities.
Authorities in the US are all too quick to double down on these failed approaches, but this community safety agenda promotes an alternative roadmap. This vision includes community-based, voluntary health services delivered by a strong pipeline of diverse and culturally competent providers, robust violence intervention programs, non-carceral crisis response, and accessible peer counseling.
Economic and housing stability are also centered in this agenda. All people have the right to housing and an adequate standard of living. Our coalition strongly promotes strategies that expand affordable, supportive housing, allocate more capital and operating support for public housing, fund homelessness prevention, and establish pathways to high-quality jobs that allow individuals to thrive.
Our shared agenda also supports investments in youth programs and education that will create a more equitable, stable society to help end the school-to-prison pipeline and address historic disinvestments from communities of color. It includes support for policies that increase access to high-quality education, combat the byproducts of economic inequality, and improve the availability and resourcing of school-based support, youth enrichment programs, and other community-led solutions.
The agenda’s recommendations center those who have historically been most impacted by decades of failed policies that have expanded systems of law enforcement and carceral control while failing to make the investments that communities really need. It is long past time for Congress to take these recommendations to meaningfully improve community safety.