For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 7, 2021
Contact on behalf of Alliance for Safety and Justice: [email protected]
MICHIGAN CRIME VICTIMS URGE SUPPORT FOR SAFER MICHIGAN ACT BILLS TO INCREASE CRIME VICTIM SERVICES
160+ Local Crime Survivors Sign Open Letter in Support of Safer Michigan Act, Calling for Better Access to Victim Services & Increased Rehabilitation
At Thursday Committee Hearing, Crime Victims, Faith Leaders, and Public Safety Experts Testify in Support of Increased Support for Crime Victims As Investment in Safer Communities
LANSING, MI – Michigan crime victims joined faith leaders, public safety experts, and victim services professionals to testify in support of the Safer Michigan Act’s bills that expand crime victim services (HB 4674-76) at a House Rules and Competitiveness Committee hearing today. Supporters testified about how current state policies are falling short of reaching many crime victims, especially those in the state’s communities that experience the most violence. Their testimony encouraged lawmakers to advance the Safer Michigan Act’s commonsense solutions that ensure crime victims receive the support they need from the state’s victim compensation program, as well as important housing protections to prioritize their safety.
“Too many survivors of crime in Michigan are not receiving the recovery support through victim services that should be available to them in the aftermath of violence,” said Aswad Thomas, a Highland Park native and National Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “The money exists to help those who are being left behind — it’s just not currently reaching them, because of policy gaps that state leaders have an opportunity to fix. The Safer Michigan Act can help prevent the devastating impacts for Michigan families and communities, when victims of violent crime go entirely unhelped by the system that is supposed to support them.”
More than 160 Michigan crime survivors released a letter urging the legislature to pass — and the governor to sign into law — the legislative package that increases recovery support for crime victims and prioritizes rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism and help stop cycles of crime. The letter was organized by the local Michigan chapters of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, which have thousands of members who are crime victims across the state.
Thursday’s hearing followed one held the previous week on the companion part of the Safer Michigan Act — focused on prioritizing rehabilitation and workforce development — that had been supported by business groups, crime victims and public safety experts as a solution to improving public safety and the Michigan economy.
The bills of the Safer Michigan Act heard during Thursday’s hearing are sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers – Representatives Bronna Kahle (R-Adrian), Tenisha Yancey (D-Grosse Pointe), and Bradley Slagh (R-Zeeland) – and were introduced earlier in the year. The legislation, if passed, would:
- Allow all crime victims in need to access victims compensation;
- Expand victims compensation coverage to account for actual costs of funerals, lost wages, support for relocation, transportation, and other costs resulting from crime victimization;
- Increase how much time crime victims have to apply for help, eliminating Michigan’s shortest-in-the-country 48-hour time limit for reporting a crime in order to be eligible for victim compensation, and expanding the time frame to file an application from one year to five years; and
- Expand housing protections to all violent crime victims, witnesses and their family members.
“So many victims in Michigan are denied compensation for arbitrary reasons – or they simply don’t know about the program,” said Qiana Wimbley, Co-Coordinator of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice’s Detroit Chapter. “Removing barriers to victim compensation will help start the healing process sooner – for both individuals and communities. These reforms make it possible for people to feel empowered, to heal, and to make different choices so that they don’t fall back into cycles of trauma.”
“I truly wish that I knew about victim compensation and had the time to apply after my own victimization. I wouldn’t have had to suffer in silence like so many others,” said Shari Ware, a Detroit-based crime survivor and member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “All communities – especially those most impacted by violence – need better awareness and access to the state’s victim compensation program. The Safer Michigan Act will help sustain people’s faith and their strength as they move forward with their lives. Passage of these reforms will keep them out of harm’s way, and end cycles of crime in our communities.”
Data from the Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) shows that 25% of Michiganders were the victim of a crime in a ten year period, but less than one in five reported receiving information about services and fewer received any services (i.e. medical assistance, mental health support, financial assistance for medical costs or monetary losses, emergency or temporary housing, etc.). Michigan has the lowest application rate for victims compensation in the nation. Survivors have just 48 hours to report a crime if they intend to apply for victim’s compensation—the shortest reporting limit in the country. Michigan statute also requires applicants to file claims in person or by mail, and compensation only covers a maximum of $25,000 for any application—below the national average, and well below actual costs.
To view the full letter from crime victims, click here.
ABOUT ALLIANCE FOR SAFETY AND JUSTICE
Alliance for Safety and Justice is a multi-state organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. It brings together diverse local crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence, as part of its Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice network that has thousands of members in Michigan. For more information, visit https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org.