Progressive Local Government for the 21st Century

Safety & Justice

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Thank you for visiting We are currently working to revise a number of our policy roadmaps. This roadmap is scheduled for revision in July 2021. In the meantime, feel free to explore our existing roadmaps while we work to fix broken hyperlinks and incorporate new and updated policy resources.


The Problems & Progressive Local Solutions

The key component of progressive justice reform is the re-provisioning of resources from the prison-industrial complex toward community-based service providers. Success hinges on adequate collaboration and investment in local organizations to take on rehabilitative responsibilities and a greater role in public safety. Cash bail, and other programs that are drivers of incarceration, can only be ended through holistic wraparound services including major social institutions – education, food, housing, transportation, job training, and worker protections. (See also our Education, Food, Housing, Transportation, Health, Economic Equality, Job Quality, and Wages & Benefits Roadmaps.)

Available Local Levers & Targets of Reforms

Progressive justice reform aims to create public safety through investing in community stability instead of jails, addressing the root causes of crime instead of focusing on punishment. Policies work toward solutions scaled to the size of the mass incarceration problem, including reimagining the pre-trial process to be a clearinghouse for social services and facilitating community stability through partnerships with local service providers. Elected officials from all local offices, including legislators, governors, mayors, council members, and district attorneys have recently accomplished significant change in policies and narratives surrounding justice and safety.

Current Reforms & Tools to Fight for Them

Generally, policies prioritize racial, social and economic justice, and aim to generate public safety through community stability. Keywords describing the edge of reform have evolved from “progressive” policies toward specifically “decarceral” ones. A number of policies are up for outright abolition under the reform aegis. Decarceral policies include:

  • Abolishing the death penalty
  • Ending reliance on county jails as mental health institutions
  • Ending cash bail and replacing it with a system of transitory housing and holistic supportive services
  • Ending civil asset forfeiture
  • Declining to prosecute:
    • Recreational drug-related charges including distribution and focusing on a public health response to violence and substance use
    • Sex work and related activity
    • Crimes of poverty, mental illness, or substance use disorder
  • Refusing to prosecute most misdemeanors
  • Increasing access to courts
  • Working toward completely recreating almost all existing diversionary programs
  • Seek shorter sentencing across the board, including for violent crime
  • Terminate death-by-incarceration practices that incarcerate people beyond the point of social danger and consign them to a life in a cage despite any rehabilitation
  • Reforming police practices, including mental health training, arrest and use of force standards
  • Ending collaboration with ICE and protecting immigrants, including providing basic necessities like driver licenses
  • Facilitating reentry
  • Opposing preemption
  • Working to create participatory models and community control over institutions including law enforcement


Taking it to the Next Level

Genuine reform requires treating violence and conduct related to substance use as public health issues, rather than punting them to the justice system. Progressive reform can both prevent abuses of this exertion and guide it to target destabilizers who cause widespread harm. This broadly includes going after:


Helpers & Allies

A number of organizations have taken a leading role in formulating policies on these issues, and there has been substantial political success in major metropolitan areas in campaigns on these issues. Leading organizations include: The Movement for Black Lives, an extension of the Black Lives Matter campaign, the ACLU’s Smart Justice Campaign, Just Leadership USA, the Vera Institute, The Justice Collaborative’s policy efforts, the Center for Popular Democracy, local organizations of formerly incarcerated individuals and impacted families like Make the Road, the Working Families Party, and more.