Defund Fear: Safety Without Policing, Prisons, and Punishment
Zach is a longtime organizer, social entrepreneur, and preeminent advocate on issues of public safety, racial justice, civil and human rights. Zach grounds audiences in an understanding of the historical context that shapes our current world while connecting to bring messages of hope, healing, and the power of transformative change.
We Keep Us Safe: How We Build Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities
Based on his book Defund Fear, Zach Norris shares his over twenty years of experience building safer communities via strengthening community bonds and decreasing the number of youth and adults in prisons. Norris shares stories of redemption and his experience that we can’t hold someone accountable for their wrongdoing if we aren’t also holding them in community.
From Harming Families to Healing Them
Keeping a person connected to their family not only helps to protect their rights; it makes it harder for others to ignore their inherent worth. Norris describes his work At the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, where helped lead a campaign that reversed decades of misinformation and demonization of youth and families of color who were derided as the “welfare queens” and “youth super-predators.” When they began the campaign to close youth prisons across the state, no one thought it could be done. But by organizing children and their families, they made policymakers understand the valiant efforts of families to simply stay connected. Legislators came to see that it was not youth who should be discarded but rather the youth prisons that confined them. The Governor of California recently signed legislation to close the last three of eight state-run youth prisons and youth crime rates dropped significantly. A win for human rights was also a win for public safety.
The sea change we are seeing in attitudes toward youth incarceration in California are possible in a variety of other contexts that are governed by family separation. Zach Norris describes: a) the United States practice of not recognizing and separating families of all races; b) the resilience of families despite this history and ongoing reality; and c) government policies that would repair past harms while also preparing families for the future.