For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 28, 2021
Contact on behalf of Alliance for Safety and Justice: [email protected]
PENNSYLVANIA LAWMAKERS INTRODUCE MAJOR PUBLIC SAFETY LEGISLATION TO HELP END CYCLES OF CRIME BY SUPPORTING VICTIMS, PRIORITIZING REHABILITATION & ADDRESSING DISABILITIES
Republican-Sponsored Safer Pennsylvania Act Will Improve Public Safety by Reducing Recidivism and Addressing the Needs of Crime Victims
HARRISBURG, Pa. – A group of women lawmakers from across the commonwealth, led by Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington), formally introduced the Safer Pennsylvania Act on Thursday. The package of public safety reforms would increase support for crime victims, lower barriers to their accessing help after a crime, and prioritize rehabilitation programs proven to reduce recidivism. The package of bills is sponsored by Representatives Mihalek, Shelby Labs (R-Bucks), Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks), Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), and Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks), and has widespread support from crime victims and public safety experts.
The Safer Pennsylvania Act is a comprehensive approach to improving public safety by advancing various solutions that strengthen communities through six pieces of legislation. It includes bills to help crime victims maintain their housing and employment after experiencing violence, as well as better access support from the state’s victims compensation program. Another bill would increase and incentivize rehabilitation programs for some Pennsylvanians in state prison —research shows these reduce recidivism by ensuring people are prepared to successfully reenter society upon their release. In tandem with rehabilitation, it would also screen people for learning disabilities, like dyslexia, that when undiagnosed can result in their entering the justice system and undermine their ability to complete such programs when incarcerated. Various studies have shown that anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of people in prison are likely to have a learning disability, many of which are undiagnosed.
“As lawmakers, our job is to look at the issues impacting our constituents and address them in a way that’s cost-effective and strategic,” said Representative Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington), bill sponsor of the Education Access and Incentivisation in Corrections Act and Victims of Violence Compensation Act. “The Safer Pennsylvania Act will strengthen communities by providing crime victims with the help needed to recover, prioritizing rehabilitation to reduce recidivism, and addressing learning disabilities that can lead people astray when undiagnosed. This comprehensive legislative package will make our communities in the commonwealth safer by addressing the many causes and consequences of crime with proven solutions. ”
“When facing physical and emotional trauma after violence, what crime victims need most is support to help them fully heal and keep safe,” said Aswad Thomas, Chief of Organizing for the Alliance for Safety and Justice and National Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “The Safer Pennsylvania Act includes effective and commonsense policies that have included the voices of crime survivors across the state and elevated their needs. These reforms will reduce the chances that someone will return to prison, provide tools for the formerly incarcerated to succeed, and address trauma so all communities can heal.”
“After losing my son to gun violence, my family and I were left to go on the difficult road to recovery by ourselves,” said Jody Coleman, a Pennsylvania-based crime survivor and member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “Once we pass the Safer Pennsylvania Act, victims will have more protections and greater access to critical help when they need it most. These reforms will keep vulnerable people where they feel safe and allow more space to heal after violence. As a crime survivor, safer and fairer communities is the most important priority, and the Safer Pennsylvania Act achieves that.”
These comprehensive reforms aim to prevent crime and address the trauma of crime victims in communities left behind by the current system, with the goal of improving public safety throughout the Commonwealth. Alliance for Safety and Justice, a multi-state advocacy organization, has been working for years to organize crime survivors, public safety leaders, and bipartisan legislators to create legislation that addresses the safety of Pennsylvania’s families and communities. The six pieces of legislation that make up the Safer Pennsylvania Act are:
- Victims of Violence Employment Leave Act (HB 2027)- Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks)
- Victims of Violence Landlord-Tenant Act (HB 2029) – Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery)
- Victims of Violence Emergency Relocation Act (HB 2031) – Rep. Shelby Labs (R-Bucks)
- Victims of Violence Compensation Act (HB 2028)- Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington)
- Education Access and Incentivization in Corrections Act (HB 2030)- Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington)
- Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act HB 2032)- Rep. Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks)
An overview of the Safer Pennsylvania Act is available here.
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 70,000 crime survivors that includes over 3,000 survivors from 64 of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties. For more information, visit https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org.