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Achieving Community-Centered Health and Safety

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The well-being of our communities begins with an investment in their success.

Our criminal legal system functions under the assumption that police, punishment and imprisonment are the only ways to keep communities healthy and safe. Yet, research shows that healthy, safe communities are defined by the quality and accessibility of the resources they provide such as affordable health care—including comprehensive mental health support—adequate housing, and education and employment offerings.

Black and brown communities of color face the highest levels of criminalization while simultaneously lacking sufficient investment in robust public services. They also experience elevated levels of racism, economic instability and concentrated poverty that drive complex systemic challenges such as community violence. When we recognize these issues as public health challenges, we see that relying on law enforcement is insufficient and can, at times, escalate violence and perpetuate harm.

It is time to re-imagine how to achieve community safety without solely relying on the criminal legal system. We are investing in Black and brown communities that are leading the way with new approaches that center on community health and restoration rather than criminalization. We are particularly focused on developing, testing and scaling nonpunitive community violence interventions, restorative justice and crisis response approaches that can keep people safe and help families and communities thrive.


Calls are made to 911 each year, yet most are unrelated to emergency events or crimes in progress. (Source)


Decline in shooting victims in New York’s South Bronx following the launch of a local community violence intervention program. (Source)


The rate that a person with untreated serious mental health illness is likely to be killed by the police compared with the general public. (Source)


Margin of crime victims preferring that the criminal justice system focus more on rehabilitating people who commit crimes than punishing them. (Source)

Our Approach

We invest in efforts led by Black and brown communities to shape restorative alternatives to criminalization, improve crisis response, and support mental health infrastructure and work with lawmakers to prioritize community-centered care.

Scaling new approaches to public safety
We support public health approaches to community violence and responses to interpersonal harm that center on restoration and healing.

This includes funding the Coalition to Advance Public Safety (CAPS), a collaboration of organizations building national capacity for community-based violence intervention: CBPS Collective, Cities United, The Health Alliance for Violence Intervention (HAVI) and The National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (NICJR).

Creating better crisis-response systems
We support new initiatives that increase behavioral health care and community responses to mental health emergencies.

Building partnerships that advance structural change
We support local, state and national advocacy for public investment in health and safety infrastructure, outside the reliance on the carceral system, that builds strong communities.

Our Grantees

Our grantees build bold solutions to address community needs, advance critical policy reforms and elevate the voices and experiences of communities directly impacted by the health and safety structures they seek to change.

View more grantees in our Criminal Justice Grantmaking portfolio
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Combating Community-Based Violence

Equal Justice USA works at the intersection of criminal justice, public health and racial justice to break cycles of trauma by promoting and strengthening alternative responses to violence.

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Improving Crisis Response

The University of Chicago Health Lab is evaluating two alternative crisis response strategies in Chicago and Washtenaw County, Michigan. These evaluations will provide a systematic way to capture insights about the programs while collecting valuable information on how each program is functioning and can be improved.

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Addressing Violence Without Incarceration

Common Justice operates locally and nationally to build practical strategies that hold people accountable for harm, break cycles of violence, and secure safety, healing and justice for survivors and their communities.