April 17, 2024

Representatives Bush, Pressley, and Porter Join Community Safety Working Group for the Launch of a Community Safety Agenda




Washington, D.C. (Apr. 17, 2024) –Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and Katie Porter (CA-47) joined the Community Safety Working Group, a coalition of 70+ organizations with an affirmative vision of public safety, for the launch of the Community Safety Agenda, which includes priority legislation champions affirmative, evidence-based approaches to public safety.

“Public safety is public health, and our movement demands transformative changes to our government’s current approach. We need to end the status quo of police brutality and mass incarceration, and channel massive investments into systems of care, not criminalization, that are rooted in improving the safety and well-being of all communities,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “One of my greatest privileges continues to be bringing this movement from the streets to the halls of Congress. And that is exactly the intention behind the People’s Response Act. Congress must move to pass this lifesaving legislation.”

“The over-criminalization of our K-12 schools is not just an inequity — it is a crisis in and of itself. So we must be intentional about confronting it head on and advancing policies and budgets that promote trauma-informed learning environments where our students can learn free from fear," said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. "I'm proud to see critical legislation like the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act gain the support of this broad coalition. Congress must pass this bill and we must continue working to dismantle systems of oppression in America wherever they exist."

“One in five fatal police shootings ends the life of a person with mental illness. This is unacceptable,” said Rep. Katie Porter. “I’m proud that more than 110 of my colleagues are again supporting my bipartisan Mental Health Justice Act, which would provide grants to hire, train, and dispatch mental health responders to people in crisis. Having the right type of responders for mental health emergencies will save lives, make our communities safer, reduce the strain on our criminal justice system, and stop distracting law enforcement from fighting crime. Congress should get this bill across the finish line.”

“We are proud to be supporters of the People’s Response Act, which puts humanity first by emphasizing an inclusive, holistic, and health-centered approach to public safety. More police, and more funding for police will not keep our communities safe. Despite the evidence that punitive interventions make us less safe, we continue to see more and more people endorsing stale, old “tough on crime” tactics. It is time to shift this thinking and promote alternatives to law enforcement that are proven to be effective, ” said Michael Huggins, Deputy Senior Director of Policy and Government Affairs at Color Of Change.

“As a teacher I wanted what every person wants — to keep their kids safe, their family safe, and their community safe,” said Thea Sebastian, Executive Director of The Futures Institute. “I couldn’t achieve this goal within my classroom. But through this agenda, and alongside the incredible lawmakers and advocates represented here now, I finally have a chance to do so. Over this next year, I look forward to working with all of you — and the more than 90 organizations that have endorsed this agenda and support our Community Safety Working Group — toward making these policy changes a reality, and toward building the new, evidence-based paradigm that will actually keep our kids and communities safe.”

Watch the full recording of the press conference HERE.

The people who spoke at the press conference, include:

  • Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01)

  • Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07)

  • Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-47)

  • Michael Huggins, Color of Change

  • Thea Sebastian, The Futures Institute

  • Rukia Lumumba, Movement For Black Lives 

  • Will Simpson, Equal Justice USA Remarks 

  • Jason Kimelman-Block, Bend the Arc

  • Alex Dilon, March For Our Lives

  • Kelsey Reyes And Ruth Martin, MomsRising 

The bills endorsed by the Community Safety Agenda, include, among other things:

  • People's Response Act introduced by Representatives Cori Bush (MO-01), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Summer Lee (PA-12), and Morgan McGarvey (KY-03) would create a division on Community Safety within the Department of Health and Human Services that would research and fund life-saving alternatives to incarceration and policing, as well as provide funding opportunities for community-based, non-carceral responses to community safety.

  • Mental Health Justice Act introduced by Representatives Katie Porter (CA-47), Antonio Cárdenas (CA-29), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Mary Scanlon (PA-05) and Senator Warren (D-MA) creates a grant program that allows states, tribes, and localities to hire, train, and dispatch mental health professionals to respond to mental health emergencies when 911, 988, or another emergency hotline is called.

  • Opening Doors to Youth Act introduced by Representatives Jesús Garcia (IL-14), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), and Jahana Hayes (CT-5) establishes and expands youth employment programs through community-based organizations that provide at-risk and opportunity youth with comprehensive pathways to remain connected or reconnect to education and training systems in addition to the supportive services needed to overcome individual barriers to reconnection.

  • Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act introduced by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Senator Chris Murphy(D-CT) prohibits federal funds from being used to keep police in schools. Instead, it directs billions towards hiring counselors and support staff, making schools safer and more supportive for all students.

As Congress’s first activist from the movement to save Black lives,  Congresswoman Bush has been a fierce advocate for an affirmative, evidence-based approach to public safety. Her flagship bill, the People’s Response Act, is among the legislation that is prioritized in the Community Safety Agenda.

Specifically, the People’s Response Act legislation would:

  • Create a Division on Community Safety within HHS to fund, conduct, and coordinate research, technical assistance, and grant programs related to non-carceral, health-centered investments in public safety;

  • Launch a federal first responders unit to support states and local governments with emergency health crises;

  • Promote alternative approaches to public safety, including coordination of research and policies that are being implemented across HHS and other agencies to center health-based and non-carceral responses throughout the federal government;

  • Provide $11 billion in grant funding to state and local governments, as well as community-based organizations, to fully fund public safety and improve crisis response; and

  • Establish a $2.5 billion First Responder Hiring Grant to create thousands of jobs and provide funding to state, local, and tribal governments, as well as community organizations, to hire emergency first responders such as licensed social workers, mental health counselors, substance use counselors, and peer support specialists, in an effort to improve crisis response and increase non-carceral, health-based approaches to public safety.