For Immediate Release: June 24, 2021
Media Contact: [email protected]
Pennsylvania Lawmakers Introduce Major Public Safety Reforms to Support Crime Victims and End Cycles of Crime
Republican-sponsored Safer Pennsylvania Act meets the needs of crime victims, stops cycles of crime, and reduces recidivism
HARRISBURG, Pa. – This week, lawmakers were joined by crime victims to introduce the Safer Pennsylvania Act, a package of public safety reforms that increase support for crime victims and prioritize rehabilitation to reduce recidivism and stop cycles of crime. The Safer Pennsylvania Act was developed by Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington) in collaboration with the Pennsylvania chapter of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – a national network of over 42,000 crime survivors focused on elevating victim voices in public safety policy. This package of bills would enact proven policies that effectively invest state funds in increasing safety and support for more Pennsylvanians. The six pieces of legislation are sponsored by Representatives Mihalek, Shelby Labs (R-Bucks), Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks), Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), and Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks) and have widespread support from crime victims and public safety experts.
A lack of protections for victims of crime and excessive barriers to accessing victim compensation currently force many Pennsylvania crime survivors to choose between their wellbeing and their ability to stay in their homes or keep their jobs. These proposed reforms include ensuring employment and housing protections for all crime survivors, as well as incentivizing people in prison to participate in rehabilitation programs that improve public safety, expand the state’s workforce, and reduce wasteful prison spending. The Safer Pennsylvania Act also strengthens access to victim compensation by streamlining processes and removing unnecessary barriers, and protects anonymity for sexual assault victims by creating an exception to mandatory reporting laws in the Commonwealth.
“The Safer Pennsylvania Act directly addresses the gaps in resources and access to services experienced by crime victims across the state,” said Representative Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington), bill sponsor of Education Access and Incentivisation in Corrections Act and Victims of Violence Compensation Act. “We know that smart investments in programs that reduce recidivism and break cycles of crime will keep more Pennsylvanians safe. With this plan, we have an opportunity to improve the lives of crime survivors across the state through common sense policies.”
“The trauma that happens after a crime occurs can prevent victims from healing and reclaiming our lives,” said Pearl Wise, a Pennsylvanian and member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice who lost her son to gun violence. Pearl is one of nearly 3,200 Pennsylvanians, from 64 of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties, engaged in Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “That’s why these protections for crime survivors are crucial to ensure we can find stability and access essential resources and services. It’s even more important that we tackle the root of the problem for victims in our state, and that includes directing public safety funding into solutions that work for all of us.”
“Across the board, we must do better to make sure crime victims in our communities feel safe and supported in the aftermath of trauma,” said Representative Shelby Labs (R-Bucks), bill sponsor of Victims of Violence Emergency Relocation Act. “Availability doesn’t always equal access, and that’s why my colleagues and I introduced the Safer Pennsylvania Act to make sure no Pennsylvanian is left behind. It’s the most effective way to make our communities safer. ”
“Every person, whether a crime victim or someone involved with the justice system, deserves a second chance at life,” said Representative Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks), bill sponsor of Victims of Violence Employment Leave Act. “This legislation is a step towards supporting victims so that they can become survivors who thrive in our communities. I’m proud to stand alongside my colleagues today and introduce the Safer Pennsylvania Act, which will improve the health, safety, and wellbeing of crime survivors and communities throughout our state.”
“Survivors across the state already know how crucial it is to have access to help and healing after a crime has occurred,” said Representative Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery), bill sponsor of Victims of Violence Landlord-Tenant Act . “In the aftermath of tragedy, it’s important for survivors to know that they won’t lose access to the basic necessities, and can’t be discriminated against because of their crime victim status. The system as it exists isn’t meeting the needs of crime survivors, and the Safer Pennsylvania Act will ensure that we do.”
“This legislation is meant to address gaps in our law that affect crime survivors,” said Rep. Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks), bill sponsor of Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act. “Specifically, my bill will modernize the way victims report sexual assaults and provide them with the assurance that they will be kept safe during the time when they feel the most vulnerable by keeping their identity anonymous. Pennsylvania should be a part of the necessary changes happening across our nation- changes that put crime survivors at the center of the conversations around public safety.”
These historic reforms aim to address trauma in communities left behind by the current system, with the goal of improving safety throughout the Commonwealth. Alliance for Safety and Justice, a nationwide criminal justice reform organization, has been working for years to organize crime survivors, public safety advocates, 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 – Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks)
- Victims of Violence Landlord-Tenant Act – Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery)
- Victims of Violence Emergency Relocation Act – Rep. Shelby Labs (R-Bucks)
- Victims of Violence Compensation Act – Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington)
- Education Access and Incentivization in Corrections Act – Rep. Natalie Mihalek (R-Allegheny/Washington)
- Sexual Assault Testing and Evidence Collection Act – Rep. Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks)
An overview of the plan is available here.
ABOUT THE ALLIANCE FOR SAFETY AND JUSTICE
The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win new safety priorities in states across the country. 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 46,000 crime survivors with thousands of members in Pennsylvania. For more information, visit https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org.