We all want and deserve healthy and safe communities. The safest places in America have access to the things people need to thrive, such as jobs, education, housing, and health care. They do not have more police, more jails, more prisons, or harsher sentences. We need to fully fund what is proven to create safer, thriving neighborhoods.
Across America, health systems and supports have been underfunded and dismantled. Social issues have been criminalized, and people of color segregated and marginalized. As a result, health has worsened, poverty has increased, and houselessness has become more visible in many communities. These very real problems have fueled a media frenzy over so-called rising “public disorder.” Some call for more criminalization, coercive interventions, and to disappear struggling people. But these so-called solutions will only make our community challenges worse.
We know we have the power to address these challenges in productive and positive ways. We must recognize people’s humanity and undo the systemic, racist policy failures that have led us here. This Drug Policy Alliance toolkit helps advocates understand recent trends in health, houselessness, crime, and enforcement, and the responses communities need. It is a resource for moving away from harmful and wasteful criminalization, and toward health-centered approaches.