Our current punitive systems of public safety are failing us — this is the unified message that millions across the country and globe took to the streets to convey in 2020, following the murder of George Floyd. Our heavy reliance on police departments and the carceral system to keep us safe has failed to make our communities any safer, and only created the world’s largest prison population. Americans make up 5 percent of the world’s population, but the U.S. has one-quarter of the world’s prisoners. Our current criminal justice system puts an ever-growing burden on taxpayers and exacts a tremendous social cost on our communities, particularly BIPOC and lower-income communities.
Law enforcement has historically targeted Black and Latine people disproportionately and continues to do so today. We see examples of this from the LAPD using improper force at peaceful protests, shooting people in mental distress, and LA sheriff’s deputies profiling Black and Latine bicyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. All too often, police escalate violence instead of de-escalating situations they enter. The 2020 Police Violence Report showed that most killings by police occurred after officers responded to nonviolent offenses or cases where no crime was reported. Over 900 people have been shot by police in 2021.
Los Angeles shamefully has the largest jail system in the United States. Those trapped in our criminal justice system face a cycle of over-policing, dehumanizing incarceration, fines, asset forfeiture, lack of rehabilitation services, housing and employment discrimination, and disenfranchisement. It’s no wonder that 62% of California’s inmates released in 2018 were assessed as being at-risk for recidivism.
In order to create the safe and healthy communities we want, we must effectively address the root causes of crime — poverty, untreated mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, a failing education system, and a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots – by investing in our communities, implementing crisis response systems that are proven to be effective, and reforming criminal laws that disproportionately impact marginalized communities. Through the establishment of systems of care that address the fundamental needs of our communities, we can begin to heal and transform our communities.
What’s clear is that our current approach to public safety is failing us. By shifting to proven community-led safety strategies, police demilitarization, robust mental health and rehabilitative services and more, we can establish a comprehensive system of human-centered care that addresses root causes of crime. We can then begin to heal our communities, families, and people from the harm of a system that tears loved ones and families apart in the name of justice and order. I’m running for Congress because it’s clear that the status quo isn’t working. Our punitive systems of public safety are failing to keep us all safe and far too often disproportionately punish those who need community support and wrap-around social services. It’s time we make our neighbors and families truly safe by putting us first, together.