New Research Illuminates Key Public Safety Breakdowns and Solutions Crime Victims Favor, Offering Path for Lawmakers
WASHINGTON – Amid concerns about rising violent crime in U.S. cities, the Alliance for Safety and Justice, the nation’s largest public safety reform organization, commissioned national research and today released a groundbreaking national report on its findings that provides essential insight into how to break cycles of crime and victimization – from those with the most at stake in the debate: crime victims.
A nationally representative group of more than 1,500 crime victims were interviewed as part of a research survey that spanned 50 states.
The findings illuminate jarring gaps in public safety: most victims do not receive help in the aftermath of crime and suffer long-term financial and health consequences; few victims see the crimes against them solved by the justice system; and, most victims prefer public safety policies that focus on stopping crime cycles over increasing arrests and incarceration.
“Crime survivors understand like few others can fathom the toll of violence on individuals, families and communities,” said Aswad Thomas, a gun violence survivor, long-time organizer for victims-first public safety solutions, and Vice President of Alliance for Safety and Justice. “Our criminal justice system is failing victims at the critical moment when recovery and healing are needed: no help, no safety, no justice. The impact of unaddressed harm and cycles of violence on the victims and their families can not be overstated. This report should be a wake-up call for policymakers everywhere who want to achieve real public safety.”
The report finds a troubling confluence of factors that contribute to cycles of crime and victimization:
- Crimes Not Solved: Four out of 5 victims who reported crime to the justice system disclosed that their crime was never solved. This is in line with recent reports of record low clearance rates in the U.S.
- Victims Not Helped: 96% of victims of violent crime did not receive victim compensation to help them recover. Despite half of victims surveyed wanting assistance with therapy, legal services, relocation, job protections, and more, only 12% report ever receiving any of these essential services.
“Ensuring public safety is an essential function of government – this research reveals a massive gap between the needs of those harmed and the capacities of the justice system,” said Lenore Anderson, President and Founder of Alliance for Safety and Justice. “With few victims getting help to recover or seeing justice in court, these report findings are alarming, but also illuminate a path forward. Public officials must listen to the clear calls for change from survivors and move crime policy in a new, more effective direction, a direction that prioritizes providing recovery help, including trauma recovery services like housing and employment protections, and victim compensation, and refocusing our justice system on stopping cycles.”
The survey finds that, contrary to the familiar “law and order” narrative that has taken center stage in the crime debate during a contentious election season, the majority of crime victims favor public safety and justice solutions that are preventative, rehabilitative and effective:
- By a nearly 2 to 1 margin, most victims prefer that the justice system focus more on rehabilitating people who commit crime than punishing them.
- 6 in 10 victims prefer shorter prison sentences and more spending on prevention and rehabilitation to prison sentences that keep people incarcerated for as long as possible.
- By a margin of 3 to 1, victims prefer holding people accountable through options beyond just prison, such as rehabilitation, mental health treatment, drug treatment, restorative justice, or community service.
- Nearly 7 out of 10 victims prefer reducing the number of people in jail by releasing those who can safely await trial in the community or serve their sentence through diversion, community service, or treatment programs over keeping people in jail.
The Crime Survivors Speak 2022 report is the second of its kind. The first, released in 2016, focused on measuring how well the justice system served victims’ needs and expectations. That study revealed that traditional approaches to public safety, as they were then applied across the nation, were not working for most crime victims. It found that crime victims experience significant challenges to recovery and healing and overwhelmingly support rehabilitation strategies for people who commit crimes over punishment.
Based on the new findings in this national study, the report offers the following recommendations:
- Conduct annual victimization studies at the state level
- Target victim services funding to the communities that have been most harmed by repeat crime and are the least supported by the criminal justice system
- Invest in evidence-based services that protect crime survivors and stop the cycle of victimization, such as those provided by trauma recovery centers
- Advance sentencing and corrections policies that more closely align with survivors’ priorities
In addition to conducting research and surveys to elevate the experiences of victims in crime policy debates, Alliance for Safety and Justice is home to the flagship Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice program, a national network of crime survivors joining together to create healing communities and shape public safety policy. To learn more about Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, visit www.cssj.org.
ABOUT THE ALLIANCE FOR SAFETY AND JUSTICE
Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) is a national advocacy organization that aims to replace ineffective criminal justice system policies with what works to keep people safe. We represent diverse crime survivors as well as people living with old records as key public safety stakeholders. ASJ brings our members together with state leaders and coalition partners to win reforms that stop cycles of crime, reduce costly incarceration, and make communities safer. We support a range of “shared safety” reforms, including crime prevention, community health, rehabilitation, economic mobility, and trauma recovery. For more information, visit https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org.