SB 708 removes barriers to the victim compensation program and expands access so survivors have support to heal after violence
HARRISBURG – In a victory for Pennsylvania crime survivors, the House Judiciary Committee today voted to approve SB 708, which expands access to the state’s victim compensation program to help stop cycles of trauma and make communities safer. The legislation – sponsored by Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver/Washington/Greene) – would eliminate the 72-hour time limit for reporting a crime to authorities to qualify for compensation, allow alternative forms of reporting to qualify, and extend the time limit to file for compensation from two to five years. Altogether, these provisions would allow more time for victims to seek help as they recover from traumatic violence, helping them to access critical support for crime-related expenses like counseling, medical care, and funerals.
SB 708 has been supported by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ), a national network representing thousands of crime victims throughout Pennsylvania. The bill achieves the same goals outlined by the Safer Pennsylvania Act, which was developed by Representative Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington) in collaboration with CSSJ. The Safer Pennsylvania Act aims to expand support and protections for crime survivors, as well as prioritize rehabilitation to help address the root causes of crime. An overview of the Safer Pennsylvania Act is available here.
“Being a crime victim can be an overwhelmingly traumatic experience, and people often need as much help as possible in their healing journey. True public safety isn’t possible unless you support crime victims, address trauma in communities, and address the root causes of crime. SB 708 brings Pennsylvania closer to achieving these goals and lifting up survivors when they need it most. We thank Senator Bartolotta for working with us to address victims’ needs, and we look forward to the legislature passing this bill to make Pennsylvania safer for all,” said Alexandra Abboud, local crime survivor and Pennsylvania state manager for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.
“Far too many barriers exist for crime victims trying to heal and grieve after violence, and we can do more to lift them up and strengthen our communities at the same time,” said Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-Beaver/Washington/Greene).“I’ve been honored to work with courageous Pennsylvanians from every community in crafting a bill that truly addresses their needs, and I urge my colleagues to make these proven safety solutions a reality.”
“Crime victims deserve to have their voices heard and needs met within our public safety system,” said Representative Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington). “The victim compensation program exists to help those who are struggling after violence, but the program cannot fulfill its mission if survivors can’t access this critical help or find out about it after it’s too late. SB 708 closes gaps to care that must be addressed if we want to improve safety and address trauma in communities most impacted by violence. I thank my colleague, Senator Bartolotta, for joining me in standing with survivors and committing to improving safety.”
“For many of us who’ve lost loved ones or lived through violence, we often face unnecessary barriers when we look for support like victim compensation – if we’re even made aware of these programs in the first place,” said Pearl Wise, a Pennsylvanian and member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice who lost her son to gun violence. “SB 708 will ensure that victims have the extra time to access help so they can address trauma, get their lives on track, and recover from violence. This will help to put an end to cycles of victimization when people are at their most vulnerable. We thank Senator Bartolotta for her support and we urge our elected leaders to stand with victims like me and pass this bill.”
About the Alliance for Safety and Justice
Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) is a multi-state advocacy organization that aims to replace ineffective criminal justice system policies with what works to keep people safe. It partners with leaders to advance state reform through networking, coalition building, research, education, and advocacy. It also brings together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence, as part of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – its national network of over 90,000 crime survivors that includes over 4,000 survivors from 64 of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties. For more information, visit https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org.
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