“We know what reduces violence — it is investments in our communities, prevention, rehabilitation, drug treatment, and mental health services — not longer prison terms,” said Dr. LaDonna Butler, Florida crime survivor, and senior manager of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “These investments are essential for our communities and our children’s health and well-being.”
TALLAHASSEE — More than 200 Florida crime victims have come together to urge the state legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis to prioritize the needs of crime victims. In a letter to state lawmakers, victims urged the need to pass a slate of reforms that would stop the cycle of violence impacting communities across the state.
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.
“Very often, public safety policies fail to incorporate the voices and needs of crime victims – all of whom want what happened to them never to happen to anybody else,” said Aswad Thomas, national director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “The Florida legislature has an opportunity to build on previous accomplishments and further improve public safety so that all communities can be safer.
“These proposed bills have overwhelming support from crime victims in Florida who, like me, know that the best way to save lives is to address the causes of crime and the trauma that impacts so many communities. We urge Florida’s elected officials to stand behind these bills because lives depend on it.”
Currently, employment protections extend only to victims of domestic violence. But HB 1467 and SB 1838 – introduced by Representative Felicia Robinson and Senator Shevrin Jones – extend unpaid leave to victims and witnesses of violent crime and household family members for certain crimes, including homicide. By extending this coverage, victims would receive the support needed to address trauma and heal, which reduces the likelihood of re-victimization.
“Florida has an opportunity to lead the nation in implementing public safety policies and a victim’s agenda that truly makes our communities safer; I hope legislative leaders are listening,” said Beverly McClain, Jacksonville crime survivor and member of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “Far too many victims lack the job protections needed to protect ourselves, mourn the loss of loved ones, or apply for victim services.
“Crime victims should not have to choose between financial stability or personal safety. They shouldn’t fear losing their job after experiencing traumatic violence. We’ve made progress in the past, and I hope our elected officials listen once more and take one more step towards ending the cycle of violence and trauma in our communities.”
HB 799, sponsored by Rep. Michele Saltzman, would make probation more effective by expanding the Alternative Sanctions Program. The legislature strengthened 2019 to more people who have committed non-violent and non-serious offenses, wasting fewer prison resources. This bill broadens the use of non-prison sanctions when those on probation commit technical violations or low-level misdemeanors and provides better options for holding people accountable who have caused no harm.
These reforms will ensure greater accountability, providing more practical and cost-effective options than incarceration. This approach ensures more people are rehabilitated and successfully become productive members of society while also saving taxpayer dollars.
“In 2019, the legislature overwhelmingly committed to creating a better criminal justice system where preserving public safety meant more than just incarcerating our way to a safer Florida. Let us continue with that commitment,” said Dr. LaDonna Butler, Florida crime survivor, and senior manager of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.
“Reforming Florida’s probation system is a critical step towards ensuring people are held accountable and remain productive members of society. Reducing recidivism creates safer communities – which is why so many crime survivors like me support these reforms. We must rethink how we approach public safety if we are to end the cycle of crime and invest in real crime prevention.”
View the full text of the bills:
About the Alliance for Safety and Justice
The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization aiming 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 42,000 crime survivors with thousands of members in Florida. For more information, visit allianceforsafetyandjustice.org or cssj.org.