For Immediate Release: Tuesday, February 22, 2022
Contact on behalf of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice: Kristina Whitaker, 617.599.6665, [email protected]
HUNDREDS OF CRIME VICTIMS GATHER AT STATE CAPITOL TO CALL FOR EXPANDED VICTIM SUPPORT AND SAFER COMMUNITIES
More Than 350 Crime Survivors from Across the State Call for Reforms and Hold a Vigil in Memory of Loved Ones
Survivors and Elected Officials Advocate for Limited Unpaid Leave for Families of Homicide Victims, Other Reforms to End Cycles of Crime
TALLAHASSEE – Today, hundreds of crime survivors and families of murdered Floridians crowded the state capitol to urge lawmakers to expand support for crime victims and make communities safer. Crime survivors were joined by elected officials at Survivors Speak Florida – an annual event hosted by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ) – with families holding photos of murdered loved ones and advocating for safety reforms.
“When my son was killed, it devastated our family,” said Helenda Davis, a member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “Funeral plans were delayed by the police investigation. We were forced to move for our safety and to help my terrified teenage daughter heal. Unlike too many others, I was fortunate to have an employer that granted me some time off. Families, like mine, shouldn’t have to worry about losing a job while grieving the loss of a murdered loved one.”
In an emotional press conference and vigil, Barry and other survivors with CSSJ called for passage of commonsense employment protections for families grieving in the days and weeks following the homicide of a loved one.
Crime survivors from the 8,000-member Florida chapter of CSSJ said that in addition to employment protections for grieving families, they’re calling for other public safety reforms, including investing in rehabilitation rather than re-incarceration, because it’s proven to improve public safety and to keep communities safe
“We just don’t have hopes – we have demands,” said Rep. Kevin Chambliss (D-Miami), who was joined by Sen. Jason Pizzo (D-Miami/Dade) and Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami/Dade). “The state of Florida is supposed to be free for everybody, and free to be safe. We do not have safety in our communities. We are not prioritizing it. That should be our main priority, because it’s not just safety for us – it’s safety for our children.”
Members of CSSJ are supporting bipartisan legislation to expand three days of unpaid leave to families of homicide victims, allowing them time to bury loved ones and grieve. Another bill would improve the state’s probation system and expand alternatives to prison for technical violations (violating a rule of probation rather than committing another crime), saving taxpayer money. A third bill allows sealing of arrest records that don’t lead to convictions on the county level so people can find work and economic security.
“Florida crime survivors understand, like no other group, the devastating impact of violence on families and communities,” said Aswad Thomas, gun violence survivor and national director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “They also understand what we need to make communities safer. Too many families who have lost a loved one to gun violence are an afterthought; too many victims of violence don’t get the support they need to heal. These bills, by prioritizing healing and recovery, use proven strategies to make Florida’s communities safer.”
Florida members of CSSJ have passed historic reforms.. In 2019, CSSJ helped pass HB 7125, which removed barriers for crime victims to access the state’s victim compensation program, raised the threshold for felony theft, reduced prison for technical probation violations, and eliminated restrictions to occupational licenses for people with a past conviction. CSSJ also partnered with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody to launch the state’s first trauma recovery center in 2021.
MORE ABOUT CSSJ’S LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES FOR 2022
- HB 0949 and SB 1306 would expand job accomodations for crime victims. The bills – introduced by Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami/Dade/Broward) and Rep. Kevin Chambliss (D-Miami) – would create three days of unpaid leave to aid the families of homicide victims, allowing them time to bury their loved ones with dignity, helping survivors and communities heal, and preserving economic stability for families.
- HB 0611 and SB 1138 would build on successful probation reforms to encourage rehabilitation, increase public safety, and save taxpayer dollars. These common sense bills are sponsored by Rep. Michelle Saltzman (R-Pensacola) and Sen. Bobby Powell (D-Palm Beach County) and would improve the state’s probation system’s treatment of low-level offenses by expanding the Alternative Sanctions Program. Alternative sanctions expand tools to correct behavior while keeping people in the community, which often reduces recidivism.
- SB 1302 and HB 1259 would amend an existing law to ensure that arrest records that do not lead to a conviction are sealed at the county level. Survivors know that an arrest record can be an obstacle to employment and housing for someone never convicted of a crime. Record sealing allows people to keep stable jobs, maintain economic security, and continue contributing to their local economy. The reforms – sponsored by Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Pasco/Hillsborough) and Rep. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) – help make Florida safer.
ABOUT CRIME SURVIVORS FOR SAFETY AND JUSTICE
Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice is a national network of crime survivors, including more than 8,000 members across Florida, joining together to create healing communities and shape public safety policy. With over 90,000 members and growing, including chapters and leaders across the country, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice promotes public safety policies that help the people and communities most harmed by violence. The organization is a flagship project of Alliance for Safety and Justice.
For more information, visit: https://cssj.org.
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