TALLAHASSEE, FL (April 18, 2021) – Florida crime survivors joined thousands of others across the country to mark the beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The 5,400-member Florida chapter of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ) hosted a healing vigil where local victims, and their loved ones, joined each other in a healing community, honored those lost to violence, and called on policymakers to implement new safety solutions that stop the cycle of crime and make communities safer.

The event is part of a national Survivors Speak virtual gathering that brings together crime survivors to advocate for policies that prevent crime, better support survivors, families and communities, and reduce wasteful incarceration. This week, the Florida chapter will also join in support as CSSJ releases its National Victims’ Agenda.

“For too long, the voices and experiences of diverse crime survivors have been ignored in public safety policymaking,” said Aswad Thomas, National Director for CSSJ. “It’s past time to listen to our stories and invite us into the policymaking process and to ensure that our experiences and needs shape public safety and justice policies.”

Despite tremendous increases in spending, most justice systems have failed to adequately meet the needs of survivors and stop the cycle of crime. Instead of putting the needs of survivors first, billions of dollars have been wasted on ineffective policies. Meanwhile, survivors of crime experience significant challenges to recovering and healing, with at least 8 in 10 reporting that they experienced at least one symptom of trauma following an incident. Two out of every three crime victims report receiving no help following the incident. Crime survivors who are young, low income, or from communities of color are often those most harmed by crime and violence but receive the least help.

Earlier this month, over 200 Florida crime survivors came together to urge the state legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis to prioritize the needs of crime victims. The request focused on three key bills in the state legislature. In recent weeks, lawmakers have introduced HB 1467 and companion bill SB 1838, which extend critical workplace protections to victims and witnesses in the wake of violent crimes. The third bill, HB 799, builds on previous reforms of the probation system by expanding the Alternative Sanctions programs to improve community safety while wasting fewer prison resources. Altogether, these bills adopt proven solutions that focus on rehabilitation tackling the root causes of crime – an approach strongly supported by crime victims as they seek to create safer communities and prevent people from ever being victimized again.

Featured Photo: 2020 Crime Survivors Speak Gathering in Tallahassee, FL