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We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  142 ratings  ·  28 reviews
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 r
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published February 4th 2020 by Beacon Press
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Victoria Law
Really appreciated Norris weaving stories in with historical context as well as facts and figures. I also appreciated how he expanded beyond violence and crime to include other types of safety, such as stable housing as safety, and ways that the state sabotages DIY efforts of those most affected (such as Oakland’s sabotage of Dignity and Housing Village).

Norris is not an abolitionist, a viewpoint he makes crystal clear at the start of his book (and periodically throughout). But many of the solut
Oct 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Another book that tries to help us understand how excessively expensive our failed systems are. Mr. Norris offers feasible suggestions and concrete solutions. I think this is a must read no matter where you are on the political spectrum. I listened to the e-book, which was narrated so well that I feel I gained more than I would have if I had been racing through the book on my own.
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a thoughtful book that takes a look at different tried and successful approaches to how we can keep all members of communities safe. Zach Norris outlines the difficulties and problems that have thwarted our safety in various avenues of daily life, justice, mental health, prison systems, rehabilitation, housing scarcity and educational divides. He acknowledges the need for justice but asks the question how? Is this restorative? Is it Us vs. them or a community of people acknowledging that ...more
Norris Rettiger
Jun 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is the next book you should read.
We Keep Us Safe lives up to the promise of providing a blueprint for holding people accountable while still holding them in community.

First off, I really liked the design of this book. I appreciated the way Zach Norris used time-vignettes and narratives when beginning his chapters. That emphasized the humanity-of-it-all before getting into the more analytical pieces of a chapter’s argument. The ideas offered are complex but he wrote them in an accessible and attention-keeping way. The content t
Michael-David Sasson
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars.

Zach Norris is smart, kind, strategic and fierce -- and he writes well. This book is a contribution to the intellectual work, similar to Angela Davis and Michelle Alexander and Ruth Gilmore among others, that seeded re-newed ideas of abolition that were available for the movement to grab onto such that abolishing and defunding the police is actually part of a conversation broadly in the US today. We owe them all a huge debt.

The writing is grounded in strategic thinking about the way f
Zac Norris is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center in Oakland, CA which works with neighborhoods to create safety and security without heavy police oversight. Through this book, Norris contends that the lack of safety is due to institutions, like police, media, social service programs and the criminal justice system that seek to punish and exclude people rather than heal and empower. So after addressing the sources of harm as he sees it, he offers his alternative approaches which invo ...more
Feb 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book offers a robust working definition of safety - one that moves us away from a framework of fear and towards a culture of care. As calls to defund the police are still being made, this book offers tested alternatives for building a world where (among many other things) harm is healed rather than punished.
May 31, 2020 marked it as to-read
Dec 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I don't disagree with anything here, but I think it's pretty superficial and repetitive of other scholarship in the area. The writing just didn't spark for me, and I think people who aren't already convinced wouldn't find these arguments convincing. ...more
Aug 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I remember the first time I read about decarceration; I couldn’t imagine it. But the seed had been planted. Then this year after the murder of George Floyd, “Defund the police” was added to the more familiar protest chants. The central meaning was to substitute spending on well being for spending on police and prisons. Beyond that were differences of degree from total abolition to limiting police to responding only to violent situations. Zach Norris’ book appeared at a better time than could hav ...more
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A plainspoken, personal and thorough account of how society has shaped the contours of safety and violence throughout American history and a practical and moral case for what we can do about it now. This book has the potential to get people talking, thinking and acting with profound impact.

“Most violence is not just a matter of individual pathology—it is created. Poverty drives violence. Inequity drives violence. Lack of opportunity drives violence. Shame and isolation drive violence. And . . .
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
An essential work regarding moving our society toward a framework of caring and prevention, rather than fear and punishment. There is a pretty large library of assumed knowledge to make this book easier to understand, so I would recommend reading The New Jim Crow and a work on understanding systemic racism in US policy (Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, So You Want to Talk About Race, Stamped From the Beginning, and/o ...more
Sterling Hardaway
Mar 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Definitely an educational read! Norris is a clear yet dynamic writer and you can tell he's just getting started as a thought leader. I'd recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about restorative justice and it's real world applications on schools, prisons,neighborhoods, and our democracy as a whole. ...more
Mar 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amv
Overall, I really like how Norris framed a lot of the systemic issues in terms of fear and safety. For a newcomer to the racial equity conversation, the introduction and first chapter are a nice summary of racial equity concepts. I really liked the stories that he wove into the sections. Overall, definitely worth reading! 4 stars
Aimee Thorne-Thomsen
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a powerful indictment of how unsafe many of us feel - not because of “crime” but because of poverty, violence, lack of access to education and health care, etc. This offers some innovative suggestions for solutions to this crisis.
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Jessica Higgins
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book lives up to the hype it promotes. A worthy read to understand the failure of the current system.

Zach Norris weaves historical personal accounts blended with knowledge of the inner workings of the current public safety and justice system to show documented failures. However, he also provides a blueprint for a new system based on accountability rather than of fear. The current system that we use continues to divide people into an us versus them mentality, keeping those in power based on
Once again, I want half-stars, Good Reads. This is a 3.5

At its best, Norris offers us a broad overview of what our currently punitive and fear-based American systems could look like if we flipped the model to focus on restoration and prevention of trauma. He gives many poignant examples of individuals and families suffering with homelessness, incarceration, mental illness, and injustice in public schools within our traditional paradigm, then offers up alternative responses to these same traumas
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: p-i-c, read-in-2021
A solid reframing of the idea of safety and harm.

Norris encourages us to to spend less time and energy thinking about individual acts of "crime" that might harm us and instead focus on systemic harms that are currently, actively affecting entire communities - for instance, lack of health insurance, wealth inequality, racist police violence, student loan debt, etc. He outlines the "framework of fear" that shapes our criminal legal system and then proposes an alternative "culture of care" that tr
Alison A
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
This guy is largely right on the issues but the inclusion of Facilitated Communication is disgustingly irresponsible. Basic research will tell you FC is completely invalid and its inclusion in this book is absolutely unforgivable. Also, why the focus on hyping E. Warren at the noticeable exclusion of Sanders, whose ideas she co-opted? This book is written in 101-style and, in my opinion, is of little use for people who are already on the progressive train.
Julia Heidelman
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
+ stories and research woven together artfully to make the case for a different system of community safety
+ memorable pieces — distinction between harm and crime, importance of “multiplex relationships” for community safety, defining the framework of fear and how it fuels our current system

- oversimplified take on affordable housing but this is what I spend my professional life thinking about so it’s ok!!
Sarah Carroll
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for those who want to see genuine change in the USA. The ripples from years of decades of poor choices have created a divide that can only be overcome by care for each other. Zach Norris brings forth good ideas that can open the conversation and change the tide for so many. This is about ALL of us. We need to make the change together.
Cynthia A
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked the humanizing and approachable way Norris delved into complex issues. Also appreciated was that this book was solution-oriented, and not just in a "here's what you gotta do" self-help way. Norris walks the talk and is actively engaged in creating change and addressing some of the biggest issues we face as a society today. ...more
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Real safety happens when we bridge divides and build real relationships with each other, overcoming suspicion and distrust." Contrast that vision from the false reality that says dividing us is the only way to keep us safe. ...more
Rosemarie Day
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I highly recommend this outstanding book. In a powerful and humane way, Zach Norris shows us how we can build a better, more just nation by creating a culture of caring and recognizing our true interdependence. In “We Keep Us Safe,” Zach calls out our framework of fear and shows us how to move beyond it, to a system of restorative justice and a stronger social safety net. And it’s more than words: Zach walks the talk through his own life and the stories he shares. If you are wrestling with 2020’ ...more
I found 90% of his ideas interesting but he lost me when he talked about his solutions to rape and violence towards women. As a survivor, I found them completely patronizing and tone deaf.
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully crafted. An important read. The just, democratic and safe America Zach Norris proposes and outlines in these pages is one worth working towards.
Jessica Applegate
rated it it was amazing
Jul 13, 2020
Jessica Stewart
rated it it was amazing
Jan 24, 2021
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