The BREATHE Act

In response to police and state-sponsored violence that recently took the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Tony McDade, and the patriarchal white-supremacy that led to the deaths of Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Ahmaud Arbery, and Riah Milton, and the many more taken from us — we are rising up against all the ways that policing and the criminal-legal system have harmed and failed to protect Black communities. This uprising, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, has exposed that we cannot achieve genuine safety and liberation until we abandon policing and punishment paradigms. 

For decades, the federal government has funded mass criminalization through grant programs that incentivize arrests, construction of prisons, hiring of police officers, and the militarization of police. This funding has fueled the War on Drugs and led to violent over-policing of Black people. This money has reinforced white supremacy and led to the violent criminalization of Black people, while simultaneously underfunding the social services and basic infrastructure that communities need—and that actually keep people safe. Black people and our allies demand a new approach. We are fighting to divest from policing and invest in healthy, sustainable communities. 

The current moment requires a solution that fundamentally shifts how we spend money as a society. That is why the Movement for Black Lives and allies nationwide are calling for a visionary bill that would divest our taxpayer dollars from brutal, discriminatory policing and invest in a new vision of public safety—a vision that allows all people, including Black and Brown communities, to be represented, free, and thriving. 

The BREATHE Act is an omnibus bill that introduces a bold, new vision for community safety that ends mass incarceration and criminalization and invests federal dollars into policing alternatives and meeting community needs. Specifically this bill will: 

1. Divest Federal Resources from Incarceration and Policing & End Criminal Legal System Harms. This bill will defund, demilitarize, and decriminalize. It terminates harmful federal programs and departments that finance the carceral state and uses these savings to fund grants that incentivize States to close prisons and jails. 

2. Invest in New Approaches to Community Safety Utilizing State Incentives. Establishes a federal grant program that would incentivize States to pass specific legislation that ends the criminalization of Black people and, in return, provides federal funding for non-punitive, public safety-focused investments in the protection of Black people’s lives, especially Black trans people, Black women, and Black mothers. 

3. Allocate New Money to Build Healthy, Sustainable & Equitable Communities for All People. Creates specified grant programs that address the needs of our communities by investing in education justice, health justice, economic justice, housing & infrastructure justice, gender justice, reproductive justice, environmental justice, climate justice, food justice, and water justice. 

4. Hold Political Leaders Accountable & Enhance Self-Determination of Black Communities. Implement reparations for Black people, survivors of police violence and their families, and people who have been harmed by the War on Drugs; voter protections; and other measures that enhance elected officials’ political accountability to Black and Brown communities. 

Our new vision for public safety must start now—too many lives, and the heartbreak of too many families, hang in the balance. Support the BREATHE Act to divest our dollars from police, jails, and prisons and reinvest in infrastructure, programs, and other measures that will help all communities thrive. This is a project of the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table. Contact us at [email protected]

Learn more at www.breatheact.org