Decrim Poverty DC Launches

#DecrimPovertyDC is a grassroots advocacy coalition committed to decriminalizing poverty by working to end stigma, violence, criminalization, and other forms of oppression against people who are targeted by the state for ‘crimes of poverty,’ including drug use, sex work, housing insecurity, citizenship status, and incarceration history.

This campaign is a continuation of HIPS and DPA’s partnership in strengthening support systems for people who use drugs and people who are experiencing poverty. Our coalition is a diverse group of organizations and individuals who are committed to a community-led, and intersectional approach to decriminalization and envisioning new care systems.

The time is now. Last year, the number of overdose-related deaths almost doubled, robbing 511 people of their lives, and communities of their loved ones. Criminalization plays a key role in perpetuating these deaths because it prevents people from accessing harm reduction services and perpetuates the dangers of the toxic drug supply. Queen Adesuyi, Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance describes the campaign as “a matter of life and death. It’s about human dignity and supporting our most vulnerable community members. We have provided the framework in the form of a proposal delivered to the council that does just this. Now, it’s time for our elected representatives to act. And with countless lives on the line, we cannot wait.”

By the end of this year, #DecrimPovertyDC aims to introduce the District of Columbia Drug Policy Reform Act of 2021 to the D.C. Council. The bill is an evidence-based proposal that seeks to end the War on Drugs in the District, and finally treat substance use as the public health imperative that it is.

The bill would remove criminal penalties for personal use and instead invest in harm reduction services. The coalition views decriminalization as a public health priority that is intrinsically linked to racial justice. In 2020, over 90% of the people who were arrested for drug possession in DC were Black. By decriminalizing personal use, public funds can be divested from racist policing, and instead be reallocated toward helping people live healthy, self-determined lives.

This goal is not only rooted in medical evidence, but in the hearts and minds of our community. This week, new polling data confirmed that more than four out of five (83%) of DC voters supports removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs and investing in services. Click here to join our movement today.

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