Resources for survivors of crime must be a priority for communities who are in dire need of — and deserve — better services. I recently participated in National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with fellow lawmakers, local leaders and survivors of crime from across Illinois. It presented an important opportunity to reflect how we are meeting the needs of crime survivors and communities that desperately want safety.

There is no responsibility more important to me than ensuring every community in Illinois is safe. As a member of our state legislature and a mother personally affected by crime and violence, I consider it my duty to work for healthy and thriving communities.

That’s why in recent years I’ve worked across party lines to advance some of the most comprehensive justice reform bills in Illinois history. They have given our state the opportunity to begin replacing the enormously ineffective and wasteful criminal justice system policies of the past with solutions that can actually help improve safety.

For people who have been victims of violent or non-violent crime, the feeling of not being safe lingers long after the dust has settled. And the truth is, we have known for some time our current system hasn’t been keeping us safe.

This issue hits close to home for my family: Four years ago, my husband and I endured the devastating loss of our son, DJ, to gun violence. It became unclear when recovery would be possible — if ever. The grief and isolation families feel in these moments are things no parent should ever have to experience.

Each instance of gun violence has many victims. Our pain was exacerbated when victims of DJ’s murder sought government support and services to help navigate the healing process. We discovered a lesson many already know: Our justice system was better at re-victimizing than meeting the needs of people at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives.

It’s why we must continue working to shift the focus of our justice and public safety systems. The needs of crime survivors must be increasingly centered, so that crime victims receive the services they need. That’s why I successfully moved legislation to provide trauma recovery services that help end cycles of harm and violence. Currently eight in 10 survivors report experiencing at least one type of trauma after their victimization, and two out of three crime victims report receiving no help after the incident. This is not acceptable. We can and must do more.

At the same time, we must hold people accountable while creating a path for earned redemption. The so-called “tough-on-crime” policies of the past have burned through our taxpayer dollars while leaving us no safer. Instead, we must continue to advance important reforms that reduce recidivism and halt the cycle of crime.

The barriers faced by people living with a past conviction after they’ve completed their sentence must be lifted if we want to prioritize the health and safety of communities. The opportunity to gain employment and pursue other life-stabilizing activities helps people support themselves and their families and turn their lives around — in turn, creating safer communities.

Similarly, it is critical we enact policies that ensure people in our state prison system successfully complete rehabilitation programs proven to significantly reduce the likelihood they will commit another crime when they return to their communities upon their release.

Illinois has an opportunity to continue charting a new path, with a vision that provides safety for all. As a survivor, I’m committed to doing whatever I can to achieve that goal and prevent more people from joining the ranks of crime survivors. Now is the time to double down to achieve true safety and well-being for all communities.

Jehan Gordon-Booth is a Democrat from Peoria and the representative for the 92nd district in the Illinois House.


Region: Springfield,Feeds,Opinion,Region: Central,City: Springfield

via Opinion – The State Journal-Register

May 9, 2019 at 08:12PM