Beyond Defunding the Police: Reimagining Safety for Communities of Color in the Time of COVID

Host Organization: Committee for Equitable and Inclusive Philanthropy, Justice Reform Working Group, and Philanthropy New York


COVID-19 is the greatest public health crisis since the 1918 Influenza pandemic, resulting in national stay at-home orders and mass closures meant to prevent the virus’s spread. However, incarcerated people are unable to follow social distancing rules, have no access to protective gear, and often do not receive adequate medical care.

Justice-involved populations contain thousands of people who may be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to untreated underlying medical conditions and lack of adequate healthcare. Further, people of color are over-represented in prison populations due to years of aggressive policing, the school to prison pipeline, lack of community support, and harsher sentencing policies. When this lifts, what can be done by and through community engagement to heal the trauma that leads to re-offense, interrupt violence in communities, and stem incarceration? How can we create strong linkages between at-risk individuals and health access and provide pathways to pro-social connections so that we don’t face another crisis like this in our justice system?

The current health crisis has not only exposed the cracks in our health system but upends the notion of single issue grantmaking. Join us for this timely and important conversation examining the devastating consequences of this pandemic due to systemic racism and decades of mass incarceration, and the community-led solutions we can apply in our neighborhoods to prevent it from happening again in the future.


  • The intersection between public health, public safety and racial equity
  • How to center equity in decision and grantmaking processes
  • How to apply a broader definition of public health
  • Community-led prevention measures


  • Zach Norris, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Author of We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just and Inclusive Communities
  • Lili Farhang, Co-Director, Human Impact Partners
  • Deron Johnston, Project Director, Brownsville Community Justice Center, Center For Court Innovation
  • Tarik Ward (Moderator), Director of Music Programs, Elma Philanthropies

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