#DecrimPovertyDC envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health, and human rights, in which people are no longer punished for what they put into their own bodies and in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more. Racial disparities persist in DC when it comes to arrests for drug use and possession and this reality establishes an important context to how the current drug laws impact BIPOC communities. Residents living in impoverished communities who lack the resources to address problematic drug use are more often targeted by law enforcement, while more resourced and privileged people who engage in regular drug use are not subjected to the same degree of policing or enforcement. They also are in a better financial position to recover from addiction and fight criminal charges in court.
Community and Relationship-Centered
#DecrimPovertyDC is a broad, diverse coalition with varying types of lived and professional experience. Our vision of a DC that promotes systems of care over punishment extends into our engagement as coalition members in encouraging compassionate, respectful, and open-minded dialogue and collaboration with each other and our communities.
Open Communication and Accessibility
We utilize regular meetings and listserv email updates to keep members engaged and up-to-date on events, advocacy actions, and policy and campaign updates. We will share notes from meetings for anyone who cannot attend and encourage feedback on improving accessibility and other concerns core organizers may address.
We strive to ensure that coalition members’ input is valued, listened to, and considered, particularly when making major decisions regarding advocacy actions. We aim to empower members to utilize their own expertise and knowledge in voicing ideas, thoughts, questions, and concerns.
Pleasure and Joy
Systems of oppression benefit from the pain, grief, exhaustion, and trauma we suffer under them. As Adrienne Maree Brown outlines in “Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good,” it’s an act of resistance to prioritize one’s own feelings of pleasure, and we hope to promote joy and connection in sharing community grounded in our collective values and goals for liberation.
Decriminalization of People
We work towards reinvestment and divergence from the current carceral system of policing, punishment, and surveillance to a health-focused approach that prioritizes the stability, well-being, and self-determination of all Washingtonians. We believe housing, healthcare, nutritious food, financial security, education, and access to compassionate social services are fundamental human rights. We will center health and economic justice by advocating for tangible forms of support to criminalized populations and those working in underground economies.
Harm Reduction-Centered Services and Drug Policy Reform
The criminalization of drugs and the stigmatization of people who use them have distorted systems of care, leading to an acute shortage of services for substance use disorder. People and communities need real support that promote health and wellbeing, not limited to harm reduction and noncoercive drug treatment services but inclusive of other needs, such as mental health care and housing.
Racial Justice Framework
We recognize that the ‘War on Drugs’ and U.S. legislative policy more broadly, especially policing and the legal system, was founded on and continues to operate through systemic racism, targeting under-resourced communities of color. In DC, this has disproportionately impacted Black residents, so any attempt for policy change must be coupled with a racial justice lens, particularly in uprooting anti-Blackness.
Centering the Voices of People with Lived Experience
In working towards policy goals, aiming to center the voices of people with lived experience of the impacts of poverty-related criminalization – particularly those most marginalized due to race, class, gender/sexual identity and expression, drug use, criminalization, and other forms of oppression.
Honoring Complexity in One’s Relationship to Substances
Drugs can be tools for pleasure or for harm. Our advocacy goals are focused on maximizing their benefits and reducing their harms, many of which are a direct result of prohibition, such as our unprecedented level of overdose fatalities in DC and nationally. This parallels other poverty-related crimes, such as sex work, wherein risk is highly correlated to the criminalized nature of the work. At the same time, we want to uplift the diversity of relationships people have with substances that are impacted by numerous factors, such as: chronic pain managed by drugs, positive experiences of social connection, harms caused by a family member or loved one’s chaotic use or addiction, and/or traumatic loss of a family member or loved one through overdose.
Utilizing a holistic and intersectional approach in imagining new systems of care. This includes supporting DC statehood, decriminalizing sex work, defunding Metropolitan Police Department in favor of community-based alternatives, and dismantling carceral and surveillance mechanisms enacted through legal and social systems, such as ‘diversion’ programs like LEAD and mandatory minimum sentencing.