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Center for Popular Democracy Celebrates Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s New Federal Resolution Redefining Public Safety

November 14, 2019

“This resolution is.. a testament to decades of work to redefine public safety and end mass criminalization and incarceration done by grassroots organizations and social movements.”

WASHINGTON, DC -- On Thursday, November 14, Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) introduced a new federal resolution, titled The People’s Justice Guarantee

In response to its introduction, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) Network and its 53 affiliates reflected on the significance of this moment, which will infuse a growing grassroots movement to redefine public safety with another significant boost of momentum. 

“This resolution is another major step forward for our communities and a testament to decades of work to redefine public safety and end mass criminalization and incarceration done by grassroots organizations and social movements,” said Jennifer Epps-Addison, Co-Executive Director and Network President at the Center for Popular Democracy. “This year, in particular, communities have come together to acknowledge the relentless emotional, financial, and human toll of mass incarceration and mass criminalization accelerated by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This has given way to incredible movements like the People’s Coalition for Safety and Freedom. We thank Representative Pressley for following our communities’ leadership and championing this resolution in our vision. We look forward to engaging with her on a People’s Process that will further develop policy platforms for our justice system and democracy, and know that she will continue to seek real insight and leadership from our communities as we build this new vision of public safety together.” 

“My home state of Pennsylvania has both the highest number and rate of parole supervision in the United States. And Black Pennsylvanians are nearly 9 times more likely to be incarcerated than white Pennsylvanians. I’ve watched over the last 25 years as mass incarceration and mass criminalization of Black and Brown communities have taken hold in my state and the country at large. As a nation, we now spend nearly a trillion dollars every five years on policing and jails. It’s time to shift that spending towards real community resources. It’s great to see our representatives taking leadership from the communities and people most harmed by systems of policing, prisons, and surveillance,” said LaSaine Latimore, a member of One Pennsylvania.

“It’s clear that our policing and incarceration systems are working exactly the way they’re meant to -- lining the pockets of the wealthy by brutalizing and trapping Black and Brown people -- yet failing to actually keep anyone safe,” said Rick Banks, Political Director at Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. “That’s why we’re committed to redefining public safety in a way that prioritizes what our communities want and need to thrive. True safety comes from investments into the basic human needs of all people: quality-affordable housing, health care, especially mental health-care, and dignified, living wage employment! These are the solutions that we should be investing in.”

The resolution -- which Center for Popular Democracy and other base-building and movement organizations played a significant role in influencing -- lays out several key elements: a fact-based recitation of the criminalization and incarceration crises facing our country; that the federal government has a unique responsibility and burden to address these crises, including by acknowledging and dismantling the harms of the 1994 Crime Bill; and resolving Congress to support a People’s Process that will allow impacted communities the space to design and draft legislation, policies, and budgetary resources that they need to be safe and thrive.

These pieces are central to this resolution and come from the examples being set in communities across the country -- like Milwaukee, where local elected official and Local Progress Board Member Marcelia Nicholson, introduced and unanimously passed a resolution calling upon Congress to repeal and replace the 1994 Crime Bill.

"There is a growing consensus that past efforts supposedly aimed at reducing violent crime in this country were really about the continued repression and subjugation of black and brown people. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley’s resolution, along with the one I released in my capacity as County Board Supervisor, shows that solutions for our communities require a strategy where elected leaders follow the expertise of those directly impacted. It's long past time to shift our public dollars away from building prisons and locking people up, and towards education, school counseling, after-school programs, and restorative justice," said Nicholson.

“The effects of the 94 Crime Bill are directly tied to the school-to-prison pipeline, wreaking havoc on students of color every day. It created the COPS Office, which has invested more than $14 billion in state and local law enforcement agencies since 1994,” said Lamonté Moore, an organizer at Leaders Igniting Transformation in Milwaukee. “In Milwaukee, we see that the reliance on punitive approaches to discipline in schools is ineffective, costly and biased/racially driven. Each year, over $15 million of money that could be allocated towards resources that students need and deserve is used to criminalize students.”

“Representative Pressley’s resolution is an important recognition of the work that communities have been doing to fight against the system that was designed to lock us up and shut us out. It acknowledges that public safety can no longer be defined by police and prisons,” said Debbie Soto, President of Organize Florida. “We look forward to working with her in shaping policy platforms for our justice system and democracy.” 


Media Contact: Trisa Taro, ttaro@populardemocracy.org