Survey Results: How Would You Fund Public Safety?

Minnesota Women’s Press readers are extremely aware of the intersectionalities that need to be addressed if we are to actually reduce crime and increase public safety.

A recent Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder story noted that the U.S. spends $80 billion a year to keep over 2 million people incarcerated. In 2018, Americans paid nearly $38,000 to keep the average federal prisoner behind bars.

We asked our readers what they would do in Minnesota with a $200 million budget for public safety. If their goal was to reduce crime, what would they prioritize in their spending?

Part 1 Responses: Examining the details of safety

Many who responded do not see the need to totally defund policing, since it can help community-led needs to maintain safety, but see a strong need to lead with a deeper understanding of where funds can make a difference.

  • “The issues of public safety are all related to basic human needs. When people can’t meet their own needs and those of their family, they strike out against others. If we can meet basic human needs, and health and education, then we have a better chance of creating a peaceful and compassionate society. Police need to be peace makers, not warriors, and restorative justice and conflict resolution will move us in that direction. I don’t know that gun control legislation will get us anywhere — there are so many ways around laws. We need to change people’s perception that guns make them safe, and rethink the role of guns and behavior in our society.”
  • “I think the investment focus should be restorative.”
  • “Meeting human needs instead of letting the dollar rule would be a good start. Local police forces should be de-militarized and criminal justice program curricula revamped to more closely resemble social work programs.”

Not everyone saw solutions, or took comfort in being able to solve issues of violence:

“To me the world is such a gigantic mess and in out of control violence (violence against women and minorities, mass shootings, guns guns guns, domestic terrorists) that it is too overwhelming to even put into words.”

Overwhelmingly, the comments focused on the social priorities — funding solutions that prevent crime, rather than reacting to issues with incarceration and court systems:

  • “Public safety does not come from policing, it comes from [the] community. Making sure that ALL community members have food, housing, fair wages, access to healthcare and education, etc. makes us ALL safe.”
  • “We have to address [the] root causes of inequity and injustice first, to provide true options, opportunities, and support systems equally for all.”
  • “You can do youth development all day but if those kids don’t have a safe home and consistent access to food, it’s a waste of time and money. Making sure everyone has their basic needs met is [the] first priority every time.”
  • “Reducing poverty would reduce crime out of desperation. Helping with mental health and substance abuse would help prevent needing to call the police (risking violence towards those struggling) and keep them out of the penal system.”
  • “Starts with reduction of poverty, affordable housing, equitable pay. Mental health services available and accessible go long way to reducing/preventing crime.”
  • “I really think truly valuing care for and by families and the interrupting the cyclical downturn that happens with trauma will make more and more people available to help with healing our whole community.”
  • “Mental health treatment tops my list because all other difficulties fall under it.”
  • “I think a lot of crime could be prevented if people had access to things that gave them stability like housing and care. I don’t think funding the police will prevent crime.”
  • “As much as I want gun control, I also believe that taking care of the trauma in people’s lives is the most important.”
Minnesota Women’s Press is building a new spinoff to develop stories that bring people together in solidarity around solutions. We will explain more about this alliance development in September 2021. Participate in our August 16 “Healing Trauma” conversation if you can and subscribe to any of our three newsletters to learn more.