Crime Survivors’ Criminal Justice Reform Agenda Passes Florida House

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 29, 2019
CONTACT: media@safeandjust.org

 HB 7125 contains some of the most significant criminal justice reforms in recent history of Florida legislature – first justice reforms advanced by crime victims

 TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) and Florida crime victims issued statements following the passage of HB 7125 out of the Florida House.

“Florida is in the midst of passing one of the most significant pieces of justice reform in the state’s past 20 years, the result of House leadership’s historic partnership with crime victims to advance a safety and justice agenda,” said Robert Rooks, Vice President of Alliance for Safety and Justice. “By passing these reforms with crime survivors, Chairman Renner and House leadership ensured that Florida will stop cycles of crime, help victims heal and create safer communities.

 Agnes Furey, the Tallahassee Chapter Co-Coordinator of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, “We are thankful Chairman Renner and House leadership worked with crime victims to drive a shared safety agenda to achieve these impactful justice reforms. By adopting survivors’ proposals in unprecedented comprehensive criminal justice reform, the House has ensured safer communities in Florida.

Debbie Ortiz, a Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice member from Spring Hill, Florida said, “By tripling the time period for crime victims to apply for victim compensation, Florida House leadership has ensured that thousands more crime victims will get the help we need to heal. The unaddressed trauma of crime victims is a life or death issue and has serious public safety implications for the state. The House bill would make a huge impact by helping crime victims access needed support, while enacting smart criminal justice reforms that improve safety and justice.

This Session, hundreds of diverse crime survivors from across the Sunshine State traveled to Florida’s Capitol to advocate for policy changes and lawmakers listened.

To view the video of Survivors Speak at Florida’s Capitol, click HERE

HB 7125 contains many of the criminal justice reform policies that were part of crime victims’ agenda, changes which stop cycles of crime and make communities safer. These include improving the probation system by expanding the use of non-prison responses to violations of probation rules, reducing barriers to work for Floridians with a past conviction, and removing barriers for crime victims to access victim compensation.

 ABOUT THE BILL:

  •  Improving Probation

Thousands of Floridians are incarcerated, not because they have committed a new offense, but because of a technical violation of probation. These violations range from missing a class, treatment or counseling session, or meeting, to not reporting a change in employment or change in address.

This legislation would encourage a more effective approach: judges using graduated sanctions other than expensive prison time for a technical violation of probation. The use of escalating, non-prison sanctions can more effectively hold people accountable for their actions while better ensuring they successfully reenter society and contribute to their families and communities. Sanctions can range from mandated drug treatment, to a temporary curfew, or up to a few days in jail.

In order to ensure that our probation system works to make communities safer, we need to differentiate between people who have committed a new crime and those who may have broken a technical rule. This is a more effective ways to correct behavior, stop the cycle of crime, and improve public safety.

  • Occupational Licensing

Floridians living with a past conviction face over 500 legal restrictions that prevent them from contributing to their families, communities and the economy. This legislation moves Florida closer to a system where a past conviction can no longer prevent Floridians from earning a job and achieving economic stability. A number of jobs require state-issued occupational licenses, including fields like barbering and cosmetology among many others. Yet, a past conviction can restrict people from receiving these licenses, blocking them from employment that could help them achieve self-sufficiency and successfully re-enter society.

Reintegration into the Florida economy through gainful employment is a life-stabilizing opportunity that decreases a person’s likelihood to re-offend. By providing pathways to earn redemption, we ensure people become contributing members of their families and communities rather than remaining in a cycle of crime. Removing obstacles for people to work can reduce recidivism and create safer communities.

  • Reducing Victim Compensation Barriers

Crime survivors face serious barriers to getting help after becoming a victim of crime – many get no help at all. Florida’s victim compensation program can provide important support to victims of violence and their families. Under current law, however, individuals and families face roadblocks to accessing resources from the program. By the time victims move past the immediate shock of an incident, they may have missed deadlines to access programs that can help them recover from the grief and trauma.

We must remove barriers that prevent victims, as well as their children and families, from receiving the help they need. This legislation would improve access to victim compensation funds by extending the time limits to report a crime from 72 hours to 5 days and extending the time limits to apply for victim compensation funds from 1 to 3 years.

  • Driver’s License Suspension Reform

For many, the suspension of their driver’s license is a barrier to work, education, childcare and economic stability. These obstacles to fulfilling economic and family obligations undermine the health and safety of Florida communities. This bill limits some cases of license suspension that are unrelated to road safety.

  • Modernizing Criminal Justice Policies

Reform in HB 7125 gives prosecutors more flexibility when deciding how to charge juveniles for offenses. By eliminating broad requirements that prosecutors charge juveniles in adult court, the legislation allows prosecutors to determine whether adult or juvenile charges are more appropriate on a case-by-case basis.

By modernizing the threshold for what constitutes felony theft to align with current-day values, Florida can enact common-sense solutions to ensure people are held accountable without the excessive barriers of a felony conviction. Several states, including Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, have pursued similar changes and have seen crime rates decrease by the same amount as states that did not change their comparable laws.

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Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. ASJ partners with leaders and advocates to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education and advocacy. For more information, visit: www.allianceforsafetyandjustice.org 

Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ) is a national network of over 25,000 crime survivors across the country. It brings together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence. For more information, visit:www.cssj.org

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