Defund Fear: Safety Without Policing, Prisons, and Punishment

Defund Fear: Safety Without Policing, Prisons, and Punishment

by Zach Norris


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A groundbreaking new vision for public safety that overturns more than 200 years of fear-based discrimination, othering, and punishment

As the effects of aggressive policing and mass incarceration harm historically marginalized communities and tear families apart, how do we define safety? 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 need to reimagine what safety means. 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. In order to truly be safe, we are going to have to dismantle our mentality of Us vs. Them. By bridging the divides and building relationships with one another, we can dedicate ourselves to strategic, smart investments—meaning resources directed toward our stability and well-being, like healthcare and housing, education and living-wage jobs. This is where real safety begins.

Originally published in hardcover as We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities, Defund Fear 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807003022
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publication date: 02/02/2021
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 572,749
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Zach Norris is the executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which creates campaigns related to civic engagement, violence prevention, juvenile justice, and police brutality, with a goal of shifting economic resources away from prisons and punishment and towards economic opportunity. He is also the cofounder 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. Connect with him at and on Twitter (@ZachWNorris).

Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Preface xi

Introduction Us vs. Them 1

Part I The Unsafe World

Chapter 1 Who and What Harms Us 15

Chapter 2 The Framework of Fear 40

Part II A Vision of Safety

Chapter 3 Addressing Harms 63

Chapter 4 Preventing Harms 81

Part III Reimagined Realities

Chapter 5 Allen and Durrell 99

Chapter 6 Marlena and James 118

Chapter 7 Anita 136

Conclusion We the People 154

Acknowledgments 160

Notes 164

Index 186

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