Essie Justice Group Statement: Why Support of The People’s Response Act is Critical

On June 28, 2021, Representative Cori Bush (D-Mo) introduced The People’s Response Act, which signals a significant transformation of how we keep our communities safe. The People’s Response Act is approved by the Movement for Black Lives, and more than 70 organizations, including the Essie Justice Group, are endorsing this bill which represents a major shift away from systems rooted in oppression.  

The People’s Response Act was born from organizations like the Essie Justice Group and The Movement for Black Lives, which came together to coordinate and chart the course for an appropriate policy response to community public safety needs. This is a crucial step in creating a national solution that incentivizes states and local governments to shrink their criminal-legal systems.

The People’s Response Act is a sensible public safety solution because it builds out a new framework for community safety rooted in public health outside of the criminal-legal system. This includes urgently needed resources for a broad array of programs, including non-police first responders, violence interruption, abuse prevention, mental health services, substance use disorder treatment, supportive and affordable housing, job training, after-school programs, and restorative justice programming. 

The People’s Response Act creates:

  • A grant program that funds community-based organizations to implement non-carceral, non-punitive investments in community safety; 
  • A grant program that funds and incentivizes state and local governments to shrink their criminal-legal systems and invest in community-led, non-carceral, non-punitive approaches to public safety.
  • The “Division of Community Safety” at the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee grant-making, research coordination, and other support for non-carceral, non-punitive approaches to public safety; and
  • A federal first responders unit that will support states and local governments with emergency health crises, as well as a First Responders Hiring Grant to fund non-carceral first responders.

Gina Clayton-Johnson, Essie’s Founder and Executive Director says:

“Punitive tactics such as policing and imprisonment uniquely harm Black women. Police have harmed and killed our loved ones, mass incarceration policy has ravaged our communities, and courts have driven us into poverty. Despite more resources than it has ever had at its disposal, the criminal justice system fails to protect Black women each step of the way. The People’s Response Act is a sensible approach that would create pathways to harm prevention and violence interruption that are more effective than policing in keeping communities safe. Congresswoman Cori Bush has answered the cry from gender justice, racial justice, and mental health advocates who know that community-led, health-based investments are the only just public safety solution.”  

A coalition of partners including Essie Justice Group, Civil Rights Core, Movement for Black Lives, and Black Lives Matter Global has been working closely with the office of Congresswoman Cori Bush on this piece of legislation. The coalition originally convened on similar policy work that eventually inspired The People’s Response Act. Essie will work to continue to garner additional support and advocate for the passage of this bill.

The People’s Response Act is in alignment with Essie’s core belief that ending mass incarceration is both a race and gender justice issue. Nearly one in four women and one in two Black women have a family member in prison.[1] Sixty-seven percent of women in prison in the U.S. are women of color.[2] And among Black transgender people, nearly half (47%) have been incarcerated at some point.[3

Given that punitivity, police, and prisons have failed public safety expectations of Black people, low-income people, and people of color across the United States, The People’s Response Act cuts to the core of how we can build for a future where our communities thrive, and is one part of our work to get free.

For more information about The People’s Response Act visit,



 [1] Prison Policy Initiative Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2019

 [2] ACLU Words from Prison – Did You Know..?

 [3] National Center for Transgender Equality Prison and Detention Reform