Florida Crime Survivors Urge State Lawmakers to Pass Reforms that Prioritize Victims’ Needs and Make Communities Safer

Crime Survivors
While one set of bills expand critical workplace protections for the immediate family of homicide victims, survivors have also expressed support for additional reforms that strengthen public safety by improving outcomes for those on probation. File photo: ShutterStock.com, licensed.

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a network of crime victims with over 8,000 members across Florida, is urging the legislature to pass three new bills that will improve public safety and address trauma caused by crime and violence. While one set of bills expand critical workplace protections for the immediate family of homicide victims, survivors have also expressed support for additional reforms that strengthen public safety by improving outcomes for those on probation. The legislature is also considering legislation that removes barriers to attaining jobs, helping end cycles of crime and strengthening local economies.   

“Very often, public safety policies fail to incorporate the voices and needs of crime victims, whose top priority is ensure that what happened to them never happens to anybody else,” said Aswad Thomas, Chief of Organizing at Alliance for Safety and Justice, and National Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. These bills have overwhelming support from crime victims in Florida who, like me, know that the best way to keep communities safe is to address the causes of crime and violence. We urge Florida’s elected officials to stand behind these bills.”

The bipartisan legislative reforms comprises the following three bills.

HB 949  and SB 1306 – sponsored by Rep. Kevin Chambliss (D-Miami) and Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami/Dade), respectively – would extend critical workplace protections to victims who have lost a family member to homicide. Currently, employment protections offer three days of unpaid leave only to victims of domestic violence. These reforms will extend the three days of unpaid leave so victims can bury a loved one, ensure their own safety, or meet with law enforcement. This will ensure that families are supported in their healing process and are able to maintain financial stability. The full text of the bill can be read here


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“Too often, those who have lost loved ones to violence are expected to go back to work right away. I can tell you when my son was murdered, that was impossible,” said Darla Saunders, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice Tampa chapter coordinator. “Crime victims should not have to choose between financial stability and burying their loved one after a violent incident.”

Nothing can shake a family to its core more than losing a loved one to violence. But no individual should have to choose between their job and burying a family member. This legislation will help support survivors and will lead to stronger and safer communities for all,” said Sen. Shevrin Jones.

“With communities across the state experiencing violence and loss, there is simply no reason to deny families of victims three days off from work to bury their loved ones with dignity and respect. While there isn’t one single solution that can make us safer, helping survivors and families recover is part of how we can all heal and improve safety in Florida,” said Rep. Kevin Chambliss.  

HB 611 and SB 1138 – introduced by Rep. Michelle Salzman (R-Pensacola) and Sen. Bobby Powell (D-Palm Beach County) – build on probation reforms passed in 2019 and improve community safety by expanding Alternative Sanctions programs that help end cycles of crime and conserve prison resources. These reforms would broaden the use of non-prison sanctions when those on probation commit technical violations or low-level misdemeanors,  providing better options for holding people accountable who have caused no harm. This approach ensures more people are rehabilitated, held accountable, and successfully become productive members of society, while also saving taxpayer dollars. The full text of the bill can be read here.

“In order to improve public safety, we must have a range of appropriate options to hold people accountable and correct behavior. Sending people on probation back to prison – when they are on the path to rehabilitating and redeeming themselves – can be counterproductive and can increase recidivism in the long run. HB 611 is a big step towards making Florida safer for everyone,” said Rep. Michelle Salzman.

In 2019, the legislature committed to improving safety while also ending cycles of crime. Let us continue with that commitment,” said Elliot Saunders, Tampa Chapter Coordinator for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. “Reforming Florida’s probation system is a critical step towards ensuring people are held accountable and can give back to their communities. Ensuring people exit the justice system better than they entered will create 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 achieve true safety for all of Florida.” 

Additionally, SB 1302 and HB 1259 – introduced, respectively, by Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Pasco/Hillsborough) and Rep. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) – would close a loophole in existing law and allow the local sealing of arrest records that did not lead to a conviction. Sealing these records, which are already sealed by the state, will ensure that people aren’t unfairly prevented from working, obtaining housing and  supporting their families. The full text of the bill can be read here.

About the Alliance for Safety and Justice
The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win evidence-based new safety priorities in states across the country. 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 with over 8000 members in Florida. For more information, visit: https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org or https://cssj.org.

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