By Natasha Baker, Esq., and Dr. Kelan Thomas, PharmD, MS, BCPS, BCPP; Additional coauthors: Heather Bromfield, Sruthi Veeragandham and Casey McAlduff

In 2018, Daniel Rivers broke into an empty vehicle. A Black man diagnosed with schizophrenia, he had been homeless for years and was searching for refuge. Despite his history of mental illness, he was arrested, charged with felony vandalism, and eventually taken to Santa Rita, Alameda County’s jail.

Once in jail, Daniel (whose name has been changed for confidentiality) received inadequate mental health care, and both his mental and physical health deteriorated. He gained thirty pounds due to poor…

By Miya Yoshitani, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network and Zach Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Last week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf attempted to use recent robberies and assaults targeting Asian seniors in Oakland’s Chinatown to criticize efforts by progressive City Council members and community activists to defund the police. As representatives of Black-led and Asian-led community organizations, we believe in solutions that strengthen our communities, not unprincipled tactics to divide them.

Instead of calling for unity and cross-racial solutions to address harm, the mayor used the opportunity to slam a 2020…

by Zach Norris, Executive Director of Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Cofounder of Restore Oakland and Marlene Sanchez, Deputy Director at Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

Illustration by Emma Li

As protests against police brutality and systemic racism continue to flare across the country, it’s more important than ever to reimagine our institutions — especially those that directly impact the next generation of Black and Latinx people. In the midst of protests and a pandemic, we face a historic moment that could reshape California’s punitive, ineffective and inhumane juvenile justice system to better serve youth, families and communities.

Governor Newsom’s proposal…

by Zach Norris

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Despite running as a “law and order” candidate, the President is using his power to grant clemency to a small number of individuals for overwhelmingly corrupt reasons. Ever since the Senate failed to impeach the president, he seems more emboldened to punish enemies and reward friends. He punishes those he doesn’t like via tweets, executive actions and/or firings. He rewards those he does like through sweetheart deals and manipulation of the Department of Justice to let off his rich, famous friends serving time for crimes like perjury, racketeering and tax fraud.

How might Democrats distinguish themselves from…

Who Keeps Us Safe?

By Zach Norris

Crime rates in the United States are at historic lows. Yet, our levels of anxiety are at historic highs. What gives?

Artwork by Oree Original for Night Out for Safety and Liberation

Despite historically low and still largely falling crime rates, most Americans do not feel safe. Black parents worry about the risks their children face from interactions with police. All kinds of parents live in fear of yet another school shooting. Women fear being harmed in their workplaces, with domestic workers, restaurant workers and janitorial workers facing heightened threats. Queer folks, especially transwomen, are increasingly in danger, while people with disabilities continue to be victimized at higher…

By Anita De Asis Miralle

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld its September 2018 ruling that prosecuting homeless people qualifies as is “cruel and unusual punishment” in violation of the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution, but Oakland officials don’t seem to care.

Late last year, I was one of thirteen people evicted from a clean and sober family-centered encampment built on the corner of Edes and South Elmhurst avenues. Our families asserted our right to a safe, warm, place to sleep, where we would not be harassed by the police and predators.

We were a…

California has one of the highest rates of police violence in the country, and people of color are disproportionately the victims of violence at the hands of law enforcement. According to the Mapping Police Violence Project, of 1,072 people killed in California by police from 2013–2018, only three killings resulted in officers being held accountable.

So it’s no surprise that Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert refused to bring charges against two cops who shot and murdered Stephon Clark, unarmed and in his grandparent’s backyard, just a few feet from where his children slept. DA Schubert’s appalling decision to let…

By Zachary Norris

Republicans are not letting up on their ongoing effort to take down the Affordable Care Act, despite their stunning defeat and the fact that 61% of people support improving the historic law rather than repealing it, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Their potential success would be disastrous — not just for our public health, but also for our public safety.

What does healthcare have to do with public safety? A lot. Public safety is about more than crime prevention. For our communities to really be safe, we need to have reliable access to healthcare.

Photo credit: Brooke Anderson

By Zachary Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

On January 10th, Governor Brown announced his 2017–2018 budget proposal with overall state spending of approximately $125 billion dollars.

The budget includes many positive increases in funding for education, healthcare, and rehabilitative and reentry programs — but given the destructive agenda of president-elect Donald Trump who is on the cusp of taking office, the state must proactively take advantage of opportunities to significantly increase reinvestment into the communities most harmed by criminalization and incarceration.

With the dark shadow of Trump’s presidency looming before us, California can establish itself as…

By Saru Jayaraman and Zachary Norris

Too often, when we think about safety, we think about crime and fear. But beyond an absence of violence, what else do we need to feel safe in our communities?

Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and the 589 other people killed at the hands of police this year weren’t safe. They weren’t safe because they lived in a country where the government divested resources from their communities for decades while sending in cops to surveil, criminalize, and incarcerate them.

Eric Garner wasn’t safe because he lived in a country that criminalizes poverty. Mike Brown wasn’t…

Ella Baker Center

The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights builds the power of black, brown, and poor people to break the cycles of incarceration and poverty.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store