More than 100 crime survivors, families and supporters gathered at the Arizona State Capitol Monday morning to urge state lawmakers to advocate for legislative reforms to address the root causes of crime and prioritize services of trauma recovery.
The event was the second Survivors Speak Arizona rally organized by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, an organization that lobbies for crime victim resources nationwide through public safety policy advocacy.
Survivors who spoke during the rally said Arizona’s criminal justice system has failed to prioritize people who experience the needs of crime and create pathways to “stop the cycle of violence.” Speakers called for funding for a Trauma Recovery Center to remove existing barriers to accessing mental health services, victim compensation, financial assistance and legal counseling resources.
Celina Meadows, a domestic violence survivor and the state manager of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, told The Arizona Republic that she and her three children have experienced systemic barriers to trying to escape the abusive situation. and receiving support, such as long waiting lists and lack of funding. assistance
Meadows said it took at least four months to get a place at a domestic violence shelter. She received no financial support, struggled to maintain a protection order and faced extended wait times to access trauma therapy for each of her children, she said.
“Finding a safe place for me and my children when we needed it most was one of the biggest barriers,” Meadows said. “Currently, we don’t have a system that supports getting out, but it also doesn’t support staying out of domestic violence.”
Meadows said the criminal justice system in Arizona could do a better job of listening to people who have had experiences like theirs and allowing people who experience crime to be involved in shaping public policy.
“My story just shows how essential all these services are. Many of these are not even specific to domestic violence cases,” Meadows said.
Meadows said a trauma center would allow people to access all the resources they need as they navigate the system out of a traumatic event, including therapy and individual care plans customized to their recovery process, she said.
Thirty-five trauma centers have been successfully implemented through CSSJ chapters across the nation in states such as California, Illinois and Ohio, Meadows said.
People at the rally also called for the passage of state legislation that would allow people with low-level criminal records to obtain job and housing resources, such as access to occupational licenses and probation credit opportunities .
Charlotte Webber, a survivor of sex trafficking and domestic violence who spoke at the event, said these resources help address some of the causes of violence and make communities safer.
“As a victim of crime, I have seen firsthand that we can do more to end the cycles of trauma and crime and to ensure that people have the tools to succeed after serving their time,” she said. “It doesn’t make us safer to set up barriers to jobs and financial stability.”
Since last year’s Survivors Speak Arizona rally, the House has passed bills 2604 and 2594. The former law strengthens orders of protection for survivors of crime, while the latter defines necessary services and funding for providers to qualify as a trauma recovery center, laying the groundwork for the recovery center that the organization is pushing.
Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice spokesman Julien Matinez said House Bill 2055, related to probation credit opportunities for people convicted of a crime, was voted unanimously just two hours later Monday’s event.
Aswad Thomas, director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice and a survivor of gun violence, said during the rally’s press conference that the criminal justice system often focuses too much on incarceration, and not enough in prevention or recovery support.
“We say ‘when survivors speak, change happens’ because we need change,” he said. “We need things that will help us heal and stop the cycle of violence.”
Sen. Sine Kerr, R-Buckeye, also attended the rally.
Kerr said she supports the organization’s demands, and encouraged activists to continue pushing for safety and resources for people who experience crime.
“We agree that we need more local workers to support our local businesses and strengthen our economy. We also agree that people with non-violent records should have the opportunity to give back to their communities, to be able to be productive citizens,” Kerr. he said. “There are common sense ways to stop the revolving door in our prisons while raising those who are ready to give back.”
Martinez said the organization will continue to push for the passage of HB2049, related to the removal of occupational licensing barriers, and HB2612, related to the creation of Arizona’s first Trauma Recovery Center.
“Next year, and the year after that, we’ll be at the State Capitol again asking for change,” Martinez said.
This article originally appeared in the Arizona Republic: Survivors of the crime demonstrate at the Arizona Capitol for the trauma center