Address the root causes of crime

Address the root causes of crime

Concerns over rising rates of violent crime have led some voices to call for a return to harsher criminal sentences and increased police presence in communities. But such actions have led America – and Louisiana – to lock up more of our people than anywhere else in the world. It may be time to take a different approach. In a guest column of the Advocate, Melissa Sawyer and Sonny Lee III reframe how we should consider addressing crime:

Crime is a consequence of chronic underinvestment in young people and our failure to meet their mental health, educational, social-emotional and basic financial needs. We urge the residents of New Orleans, along with our elected officials, to invest in long-term, community-based support services. Without such a commitment, the structural barriers that lead to instability and crime are nearly impossible to overcome.

Americans still need relief
Prospects seem dim for the Build Back Better legislation advanced by President Biden’s administration in 2021. But while the landmark social infrastructure bill is stalled, people in America continue to struggle from the effects of the pandemic and from existing policy choices that often put education and training for high-wage jobs out of reach for people with low incomes, disproportionately holding back people and communities of color. Now, citizens and advocates are pushing for compromise legislation that would target key priorities, such as expanding pathways to quality jobs and advancing equity. In a new report, LaDonna Pavetti and Gina Azito Thompson of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have more:

“[Education and training] investments will create new opportunities for people across the country, especially for people whom structural inequities and historical racism have most affected: women, people with disabilities, opportunity youth (young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are disconnected from school and work), young adults, workers of color, workers living in communities with high levels of disadvantage, rural communities with few jobs available, and people harmed by the criminal legal system.”

We all benefit from equitable disaster recovery
Climate change has made catastrophic natural disasters increasingly common. But structural inequities that have existed for decades cause low- to moderate-income households to rebound from disasters at a much slower rate than more affluent communities. In the Louisiana Illuminator, Shannon Van Zandt outlines what’s at stake if policymakers continue to leave these households behind: 

Researchers have found that housing recovery is strongly linked to business recovery. Workers need housing so they can return to work, and businesses need workers so they can resume operations. Rockport, Texas, where Hurricane Harvey made landfall in 2017, offers a cautionary tale. A year after the hurricane, hotels and restaurants – even those that were part of national chains – struggled to reopen for Rockport’s critical tourist season due to the loss of affordable housing for workers. Many of those workers had relocated to San Antonio, two and a half hours away. When rental properties are destroyed by disasters, workers who keep local restaurants and businesses running often have little choice but to leave.

Fix our broken student loan repayment system
While calls from advocates grow stronger for President Biden to take executive action on the nearly $2 trillion in federal student debt held by over 40 million borrowers, some are not holding their breath for universal debt cancellation. But with payments scheduled to resume on May 1st, over 100 organizations are calling on the U.S. Department of Education to target relief to low-income borrowers by fixing a broken repayment option that has offered full relief to only 32 borrowers of the 4.4 million theoretically eligible for relief since 2016. In a press release, Persis Yu of the Student Borrower Protection Center lays out the case

Over 4 million student borrowers have been failed by the promise of the [Income-Driven Repayment] program and, despite its stated purpose, borrowers have been burdened with unaffordable debt for decades. Without action from this administration, only 1-in-23,000 borrowers will continue to have a chance at cancellation, and that is unacceptable (…) The Biden administration can help millions of borrowers and restore trust in this vital program by implementing an IDR waiver.

Number of the Day
30% – Share of high blood pressure patients in Louisiana who saw their blood pressure decrease after receiving care at a mobile clinic, a critical tool aimed at expanding rural health care access (Source: Center for American Progress)