We Keep Us Safe

Reimagining Safety in the Age of Police Aggression

How can we reimagine safety in the age of aggressive policing and mass incarceration? After decades of repressive and racist systems that keep our communities struggling, it’s time we shift away from fear and punishment and towards growth and support systems from our families and communities. That’s the argument that activist and lawyer Zach Norris lays out in his new book We Keep Us Safe.


Zach Norris

Zach Norris


Zach Norris is the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, author of We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities, and co-founder of Restore Oakland, a community advocacy and training center that will empower Bay Area community members to transform local economic and justice systems and make a safe and secure future possible for themselves and for their families. Zach is also a co-founder of Justice for Families, a national alliance of family-driven organizations working to end our nation’s youth incarceration epidemic.

Zach helped build California’s first statewide network for families of incarcerated youth which led the effort to close five youth prisons in the state, passed legislation to enable families to stay in contact with their loved ones, and defeated Prop 6—a destructive and ineffective criminal justice ballot measure.

We Keep Us Safe, released in 2020, has been praised by Forbes, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, and Kirkus Reviews.

In addition to being a Harvard graduate and NYU-educated attorney, Zach is also a graduate of the Labor Community Strategy Center’s National School for Strategic Organizing in Los Angeles, California and was a 2011 Soros Justice Fellow. He is a former board member at Witness for Peace, Just Cause Oakland and Justice for Families. Zach was a recipient of the American Constitution Society's David Carliner Public Interest Award in 2015, and is a member of the 2016 class of the Levi Strauss Foundation's Pioneers of Justice.

Zach is a loving husband and dedicated father of two bright daughters, whom he is raising in his hometown of Oakland, California.

Keith Wattley


Keith Wattley is the founder and Executive Director of UnCommon Law, a legal nonprofit providing trauma-informed counseling, legal assistance and advocacy for people serving life sentences in California state prisons. Keith has been advocating for the rights of people in prison and on parole for more than 20 years. At UnCommon Law, he has focused on helping people transform their lives and demonstrate to the parole board that they can safely be released from their life sentences. He has also engaged in impact litigation and individual cases involving unlawful prison and parole conditions, and he has trained hundreds of lawyers, law students and others in advocating for the rights of incarcerated people. In 2018, Keith was selected as one of the Obama Foundation's inaugural Fellows, recognizing his unique legal model and vision, and in 2020, he was awarded the James Irvine Foundation's Leadership Award. Keith has also been active on several boards of directors, and he teaches a course titled “California Prisons and Discretionary Parole” at UC Berkeley School of Law.