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More safety is needed say crime victim advocates

poster of survivors that reads "survivors speak"
Alexandra Dresner
Photo of a poster
Survivors speak out in hopes that their personal stories can inspire legislative change.

While standing between the Florida House and Senate offices, family members are holding photos of their loved ones—people who’ve died because of criminal violence.

“We are called to help," says Juan Pablo Chavez with the group Survivors for Safety and Justice. "We are called to bring hope. We are called to speak for those that cannot speak anymore. We are called to break the silence. We are called to be the architects of healing in our communities."

Another member of the group, Aleta Jarrett, says she lost her father and brother to gun violence in 2003. Jarrett says the trial process took many years, which was difficult for her and her family.

“I wish I had had trauma recovery centers to help me through that trauma and you feel like every time you go into a courtroom, you are revictimized over and over again,”  says Jarrett.

The organization is backing a bill that would create such centers—providing gun violence, sexual assault, and domestic violence survivors a home base for counseling and support services.

Another bill the group backs would seal misdemeanor records of low-level offenders who committed what the sponsor calls first time, non-serious crimes. Rep. LaVon Bracy Davis (D-Ocoee), says her bill is about igniting hope and redemption. “We envision a Florida where past mistakes are not always burdens, but rather can be used as stepping stones toward success."

The third bill on the group's legislative agenda addresses Florida’s probation system. Chavez calls it an important measure to “prioritize safety and make sure what happened to us never happens to someone else."

Still, the measures are a long shot. After years of incremental changes aimed at easing criminal penalties, the Republican-led legislature has focused on increasing them amid a nationwide spike in violent, serious crimes.

My name is Alex Dresner and I am a senior at Florida State University, pursuing a degree in Media and Communication Studies. I am an aspiring reporter, specifically intrigued by criminal news broadcasting.