January 9, 2024

Press Contacts
Joshua Stickney, Ella Baker Center,, 405-315-4151
Daisy Vieyra, Smart Justice California,, 805-612-4710

Advocates and Lawmakers Call for Smart Solutions to Safety; Launch New Campaign

Lawmakers, trafficking survivors, and a broad coalition of community leaders tell state leaders California “won’t go back” to failed approaches to public safety.

SACRAMENTO — Following the start of the 2024 California Legislative Session, a broad coalition of labor, victims, health equity and criminal justice advocates launched the new #SmartSolutions campaign at a press conference on Tuesday. Joined by Assemblymembers Mia Bonta (D-Alameda) and Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles), the ACLU California Action, Smart Justice California, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), Californians for Safety and Justice, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights called on the Legislature to support smart solutions to public safety that address root causes of crime, support survivors, and give people returning home after incarceration the support they need. A video of the press conference can be viewed here

“The state is facing its first budget deficit in a great many years. It’s not a coincidence that we’re having conversations about safety at the same time that we’re expecting to cut the safety net by more than we have in over a decade,” said Assemblymember Isaac Bryan during the press conference. “For every dollar we spend on criminalizing poverty it’s a dollar we could have better spent ending poverty.  These are the opportunities we have to protect Californians and prevent us from making the mistakes we’ve made time and time again. We can’t call it progress when we are literally going backwards.”

“I’m honored to stand today to launch #SmartSolutions because we need them now more than ever,” said Assemblymember Mia Bonta on Tuesday morning. “Since I took office in 2021, my actions have made it very clear where I stand, which is on the path to public safety, including basic needs like healthcare, education, and opportunities to invest in our communities. We spent $14.6 billion on our carceral system last year, and every year we spend money on a broken system; a system that has people come out without the resources they need to be our good neighbors, to be our community members, and to come back to their mothers and fathers. Our path forward is to come up with solutions and investments that will actually make a difference.” 

Community leaders representing hundreds of thousands of Californians — from public health professionals, service and commercial workers, domestic violence and trafficking survivors, and more — spoke to the need for smart, community-centered solutions ahead of the first hearings of the California Senate and Assembly Public Safety Committee Hearing meetings on Tuesday morning. 

They specifically called on the State of California to allocate $200 million in ongoing funding in the state budget to keep current victims’ services afloat in California. This year, California is expecting a severe shortfall in federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, the largest funding source for victims’ services in California and the country. These funds support nearly 400 organizations responding to the needs of survivors of child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence, sexual assault, and more. Without California stepping in to fill the gap, these services will be severely disrupted or come to a complete halt.

With the announcement of California’s nearly $70 billion budget deficit in 2024, and the fact that the state has allocated $14 billion to the California Department of Correction and Rehabilitation, advocates called for community investments — including services for victims, housing, health care, schools, and programs that reduce recidivism and promote accountability — over the wasteful and ineffective expansion of criminalization and incarceration. According to At What Cost? Examining Police, Sheriff, and Jail Budgets Across the US — a joint report by PolicyLink and the USC Equity Research Institute — for every $100 in taxpayer dollars spent, $14.12 is spent on health in contrast to $32.50 on incarceration. 


  • “Today, we are calling on the state of California to stop saying it cares about survivors, and start investing in the support survivors need,” said Leigh LaChapelle, Associate Director of Survivor Advocacy at the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking. “If California doesn’t act, we will see thousands of survivors unable to access vital care. Organizations across the state will be forced to reduce critical programming, increase their wait times, lay off staff, or even close their doors entirely.”
  • “The crumbling social safety net, mental health crisis, and an addiction epidemic have put UFCW members on the frontlines of community safety, something that they never signed up for when they started work at Safeway or CVS,” said Amber Baur, Executive Director, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council. “Retail theft and violence occur daily, exacerbating a workplace safety crisis for our members who don’t have the proper training. It’s time our elected officials invest in good union jobs, worker training and education, workplace safety and healthcare as proven solutions to prevent crime before it happens.”
  • “Investments and #SmartSolutions that address root causes of health inequities are imperative to achieve community safety and racial equity for all. As we strive to build a California that secures the well-being of everyone, regardless of the color of your skin, we must focus on preserving community-informed care and community-centered solutions,” said Andrea Rivera, Associate Director of Legislative Affairs at the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “We live in a society where your race, wealth, and zip code say a lot about your health outcomes. And while each community faces unique barriers and health inequities, we have more in common than not. All communities of color experience racism, discrimination, and bias. We have not been invested in and our needs are rarely seen as policy or budget priorities.” 
  • “Our message to the California Legislature today is simple: we won’t go back,” said Carmen-Nicole Cox, Director of Government Affairs for ACLU California Action. “We won’t go back to failed mass incarceration policies of the past and to wasting limited resources that could be better spent on caring for our communities. Above all, we won’t go back to harmful policies that tear Black, Brown, and immigrant communities apart.”

Smart Solutions (#SmartSolutions) is a new, intersectional campaign to counter efforts to double down on criminalization and mass incarceration – which inevitably means wasting precious state resources that could be better spent on housing, health care, schools, services for victims, and programs that reduce recidivism and promote accountability beyond incarceration. The campaign is comprised of a broad coalition, including ACLU California Action, Smart Justice California, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB), and others.