S.E. Williams | Contributor
Although crime affects every demographic group, young, low-income people of color are more likely to be victims of crime.
In addition, while national research has repeatedly demonstrated how violence and crime is concentrated with unequal impact on certain demographic groups—communities most harmed by concentrated cycles of crime are usually the least supported by the criminal justice system.
The US Department of Justice Bureau has found that not only are people of color 15 percent more likely to be victims of crime, people under the age of 40 and those living in urban areas are particularly impacted.
In addition to being the most victimized, people of color like others groups are also underserved regarding counseling, medical assistance and financial support when they are victims.
The 2019 Alliance for Safety and Justice (Alliance) survey found basic needs, such as medical or financial assistance, temporary housing, help understanding the courts and legal system, of most victims of crimes in California over the last ten years remain unmet.
As a result, many survey respondents said they experienced a long road to recovery. Also, despite suffering from anxiety and depression, among other difficulties, most were unaware of services that could help them.
Alliance experts suggested this can be addressed in part, by devoting additional resources to both broad-based and targeted outreach in order to better inform victims and the public about the availability of such services.
Survey administrators recommended legislators review obstacles to accessing services and design support systems that are easier for victims and survivors to navigate. “Reducing barriers to victims’ access include considerations such as location/co-location of services, language barriers, proximity of different types of services, as well as the cultural competency of service providers.”
Perhaps some of the most compelling revelations from the survey were victims’ calls for legislators to consider how public safety policy priorities should be implemented to better reflect victims’ preferences for investments in rehabilitation programs, crime prevention and substance abuse treatment.
One example provided centered on potential changes in the law that would divert people with mental illness away from the criminal justice system to appropriate treatment programs.
Respondents also addressed the need for elected officials to consider victims’ support for increased judicial discretion in sentencing and reasonable alternatives to long sentences that have historically increased taxpayer costs but have little impact on recidivism or public safety.
To review the 2019 Crime Survivors Speak Survey visit https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/201904-CSJ-CA-Crime-Survivors-Speak.pdf.