As Californians for Safety and Justice rolled out their new public education campaign called “Just Safe,” news broke about yet another mass shooting.
“This is horrific. I cannot imagine what the families in Monterey Park are going through,” said Will Matthews, a spokesperson for the nonprofit organization.
“If we balanced the scales in preventing crime and harm in the first place with mental health and drug treatment and balanced the scales, as opposed to the billions we spend in our prison system to over enforce and over incarcerate, we could prevent crime and harm in the first place — but, we don’t make the same investment,” said Matthews.
Matthews and other members of the organization believe the keys to real and durable safety in our communities are “crime prevention and holistic community wellness.”
The organization has released a 60-second commercial this week as the focal point of their “Just Safe” campaign that sends the message that being or feeling safe is equated with stability and having basic needs met. Actor Jenifer Lewis is among those featured in the commercial.
“California is at an inflection point,” said Tinisch Hollins, the executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice.
The organization, which is supported by philanthropic foundations, advocates for strategies they believe are the best practices to stop the cycle of crime and the reliance on incarceration.
“From the local news to the state legislature, misinformation about crime has flourished in recent years, while the real needs of the people have continued to go unmet.”
Hollins is a survivor of crime who has lost three brothers to gun violence. She is credited with playing a pivotal leadership role in the defeat of Proposition 20 in 2020 that sought to repeal criminal justice reforms and added more crimes to the list of nonviolent felonies.
Hollins believes California is a national leader in advancing effective safety solutions that have addressed the root causes of crime, but sees the tide turning with less support for progressive policies.
“Recent years have seen a re-emergence of tough-on-crime rhetoric that threatens to return to failed approaches of the past that left our communities over-incarcerated, underserved and less safe,” she said.
Hollins describes the organization’s campaign as “boldly proclaiming what both research and the public’s own lived experiences reveal to be true, over-reliance on enforcement and incarceration only exacerbates the conditions that lead to violence and does nothing to actually prevent crime in the first place.”
The centerpiece of the organization’s campaign is the commercial that is currently being shown online and on streaming platforms.
Viewers are told to close their eyes and imagine a time when they felt safe.
The commercial highlights multiethnic residents living in California who have been impacted by crime and violence describing the things they believe create safety for their families and communities. It delivers one of the campaign’s main themes: that “safety is more than the absence of crime — it is the presence of well-being.”
Those in the video reference having a home, their families, a job that helps to make them feel secure and safe. There is no mention of having more police on the street or more prisons as making them feel safe.
“That doesn’t work. And, when you hear from survivors of crimes, what they want more than anything and what they express, ‘is to keep this from happening to anyone else,’” said Matthews. “Mental health and drug treatment is needed. We need stability for people who are living in the margins,” he said.
“There are far too many of us who are living in crisis, with no access to the treatment, support or the healing they need,” said Hollins. “But we know that when everyone is supported, everyone is safe and at the end of the day, we all just want to be safe.”
In addition to streaming platforms, the commercial will be shown in movie theaters across California. You can also watch it on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8WQAFP_vbc.