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Defund Fear

Defund Fear

Safety Without Policing, Prisons, and Punishment

Zach Norris
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A groundbreaking new vision for public safety that overturns more than 200 years of fear-based discrimination, othering, and punishment


As the effects of aggressive policing and mass incarceration harm historically marginalized communities and tear families apart, how do we define safety? In a time when the most powerful institutions in the United States are embracing the repressive and racist systems that keep many communities struggling and in fear, we need to reimagine what safety means. Community leader and lawyer Zach Norris lays out a radical way to shift the conversation about public safety away from fear and punishment and toward growth and support systems for our families and communities. In order to truly be safe, we are going to have to dismantle our mentality of Us vs. Them. By bridging the divides and building relationships with one another, we can dedicate ourselves to strategic, smart investments--meaning resources directed toward our stability and well-being, like healthcare and housing, education and living-wage jobs. This is where real safety begins.


Originally published in hardcover as We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive CommunitiesDefund Fear is a blueprint of how to hold people accountable while still holding them in community. The result reinstates full humanity and agency for everyone who has been dehumanized and traumatized, so they can participate fully in life, in society, and in the fabric of our democracy.


Zach Norris is the former executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and a current Open Society Foundations Soros Equality Fellow. He is also the cofounder of Restore Oakland and Justice for Families, both of which focus on the power of community action. He graduated from Harvard and took his law degree from New York University. Connect with him at and on Twitter (@ZachWNorris).


  • Publisher: ‎Beacon Press (February 2, 2021)
  • Language: ‎English
  • Paperback: ‎216 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎0807003026
  • ISBN-13: ‎9780807003022
  • Item Weight: ‎11.2 ounces
  • Dimensions: ‎6.09 x 0.59 x 9 inches
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