In his newest book, community leader and lawyer Zach Norris lays out a radical way to shift the conversation about public safety away from fear and punishment and toward growth and support systems for our families and communities. The author calls for a dismantling of the Us vs. Them mentality and replaces it with a care-based approach. By bridging the divides and building relationships with one another, Norris believes we should dedicate ourselves to strategic investments in the areas of stability and well-being, such as healthcare, housing, education and living-wage jobs. In a time when the most powerful institutions in the United States are embracing the repressive and racist systems that keep many communities struggling and in fear, we must reimagine what safety means.
“When we devote resources to programs that make the most vulnerable people in our society healthier, more educated, and more engaged in meaningful pursuits, we make all of America safer.” — Zach Norris
Originally published in hardcover as We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities, Defund Fear: Safety Without Policing, Prisons, and Punishment is a blueprint of how to hold people accountable while still holding them in community. The result reinstates full humanity and agency for everyone who has been dehumanized and traumatized, so they can participate fully in life, in society, and in the fabric of our democracy.
Zach Norris is the former executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and a current Open Society Foundations Soros Equality Fellow. He is also the co-founder of Restore Oakland and Justice for Families, both of which focus on the power of community action. He graduated from Harvard and took his law degree from New York University.