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Experts in Community Safety Join ACLU in Calls for Congress to Improve Public Safety with Evidence-Based Solutions

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union hosted a series of congressional briefings this week in collaboration with Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), as part of the organization’s first annual Community Safety Week in Washington, D.C. The briefings featured presentations from experts in public health, community violence intervention, and alternative crisis response, as well as opinion research shedding light on the efficacy and popularity of alternative safety solutions that don’t rely on incarceration.

“We need more investments in proven safety measures that get at the root causes of crime and don’t just respond to it in the aftermath,” said Cynthia W. Roseberry, director of policy & government affairs with the ACLU’s Justice Division. “It’s time for Congress to allocate the necessary resources and give Americans the public safety solutions they deserve.”

The first of two panel briefings focused on recent public opinion research that shows Americans across the political spectrum want more investments in solutions that prevent crime, such as addressing the rising costs of housing, improving access to mental health care and substance use treatment, providing opportunities for at-risk youth, and expanding programs that send non-police responders who are experts in crises related to mental health, addiction, and homelessness to certain calls for help. The second panel featured experts working in violence intervention and alternative crisis response, who spoke to members of Congress about how these programs are improving long term community safety, breaking cycles of crime and violence, and reducing the burden on police.

“I’ve seen firsthand how sending behavioral health professionals to certain emergency calls improves public safety and community trust,” said Sam Rabins, LCSW, associate director of clinical services at WellPower. “People who are unhoused or having a mental health crisis should be offered treatment – not interactions with police that could land them in jail. These programs have been enormously successful, but they require funding to keep them going.”

Throughout the week, ACLU leadership, including from five states, met with members of Congress, urging them to use federal appropriations streams to fund successful alternative crisis response models that enjoy broad support from constituents, and ensure strong civil rights protections for federal funds earmarked for law enforcement.

“So many young people in communities across the country experience unimaginable violence and loss before reaching adulthood,” said Tia Bell, founder and CEO of the Trigger Project. “I know what that’s like and that’s why I’m fighting for transformational community change. We need our elected leaders to stop focusing on punishment, and to invest instead in (youth) violence prevention and violence as a disease. It’s what will actually create lasting community safety, but it’s also what our youth deserve – the chance to succeed and to thrive.”

Originally published at https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/experts-in-community-safety-join-aclu-in-calls-for-congress-to-improve-public-safety-with-evidence-based-solutions

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