Pressley, Bush, Jayapal, Schakowsky Unveil People’s Response Act - Bold Legislation to Transform Nation’s Public Safety Response

June 28, 2021
Press Release
Bill would create a community safety division within the Department of Health and Human Services to fund health-centered investments in public safety

Bill Text | One-Pager | Section-by-Section

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Congresswoman Cori Bush (MO-01), along with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), are leading the introduction of monumental legislation to transform our country’s approach to public safety.

The People’s Response Act, co-sponsored by 13 members and endorsed by over 70 organizations, advances an inclusive, holistic, and health-centered approach to public safety by creating a Division of Community Safety within the Department of Health and Human Services — because communities and experts agree that public safety is a matter of public health.

“For too long, our flawed approach to public safety has centered criminalization, surveillance and incarceration, rather than care, justice and healing,” said Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. “Our bill would help change that by directing the federal government to take a health-centered approach to public safety and investing in trauma-informed, community-based responses that will truly keep people safe. I’m grateful to Congresswoman Bush and our colleagues for their partnership as we work to build a more just criminal legal system.”

“Public safety is a public health issue. It’s time our approach reflects that,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “The People’s Response Act will transform public safety into a system of care rather than criminalization, healing rather than incarceration, and prevention rather than policing. We are safer when our communities are well funded, our people are healthy and housed, and our children have nutritious meals, excellent schools, and green spaces to play in. The House of Representatives is the People’s House and we need the people’s response to this moment. We need the People’s Response Act.”

The People’s Response Act would: 

  • Create a new public safety agency within the Department of Health and Human Services to fund and coordinate research, technical assistance, and grant programs related to non-carceral, health-centered investments in public safety;
  • Launch a federal first responders unit that will support states and local governments with emergency health crises;
  • Research alternative approaches to public safety, including coordination of research and policies that are being implemented across HHS and other agencies to center health-based and non-carceral responses throughout the federal government;
  • Provide $7.5 billion in grant funding to state and local governments, as well as community-based organizations, to fully fund public safety and improve crisis response; and
  • Establish a $2.5 billion First Responder Hiring Grant to create thousands of jobs and provide funding to state, local, and tribal government, as well as community organizations, to hire emergency first responders such as licensed social workers, mental health counselors, substance use counselors, and peer support specialists, in an effort to improve crisis response and increase non-carceral, health-based approaches to public safety. 

The full text of the legislation can be found HERE.

A one-pager of the bill can be found HERE.

A section-by-section of the legislation can be found HERE.

The bill is co-sponsored by: Reps. Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-00), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), Gerald Connolly (VA-11), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), and Alma Adams (NC-12).

The bill is endorsed by: The Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Campaign, American Civil Liberties Union, Civil Rights Corps, Color of Change, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund, Human Impact Partners (HIP), Treatment Advocacy Center, Reale Justice Network, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Movement for Black Lives, Black Lives Matter, The Bail Project, Center for Popular Democracy, National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), Center for Biological Diversity, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Project South, Center for Media Justice, Voters Organized to Educate, Parents Organized for Public Education, Community Law and Mediation Services of Northern California, Showing Up for Racial Justice, Dignity and Power Now, Zealous, Public Justice Center, Common Justice, Greenpeace US, National Black Worker Center, Freedom Agenda, Mijente, Young Women's Freedom Center, The National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls, Families for Justice as Healing, Project Turnaround, Aligned Law, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children/ All of Us or None, Community Justice Action Fund, End Police Violence Collective, Equal Justice Under Law, Promise of Justice Initiative, MoveOn, National Employment Project, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, Youth Over Guns, Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), and more. 

For a full list of endorsing organizations, click here.

The People’s Response Act is informed by Rep. Pressley’s People’s Justice Guarantee (PJG), her visionary resolution to transform the criminal legal system and prioritize trauma-informed health services instead of policing and criminalization.

Under the framework of the PJG, Rep. Pressley has also introduced the Mental Health Justice Act to reduce violence against individuals with mental illness and disabilities by empowering state and local governments to send trained mental health professionals to respond to incidents of mental health crisis. She has also introduced the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act to reduce the growing presence of school-based police officers and invest in school nurses, social workers, mental health practitioners, and other professionals trained in trauma-aware practices; as well as the Ending PUSHOUT Act to end the traumatic criminalization of Black, brown, and indigenous girls in school.

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