County’s Criminal Justice System Fails to Support Survivors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2021 

CONTACT: Will Matthews, Californians for Safety and Justice; (909) 261-1398; will@safeandjust.org 

LOS ANGELES — New survey reveals that a huge majority of victims of violent crime in Los Angeles County feel the criminal justice system failed them in their time of need and that justice system resources should be invested in crime prevention, not incarceration. The survey was conducted over a seven day period in early February by David Binder Research.

According to the responses of 724 crime survivors in the nation’s most populous county, fewer than three in 10 victims of violent crime receive victim support services. Most said they were not even aware of the existence of such services, despite a majority reporting they would have wanted services such as counseling, medical care and financial support.

The survey also shows that most victims of violent crime want changes to the criminal justice system that emphasize rehabilitation and crime prevention, rather than more incarceration. Large majorities support policies to shift resources away from incarceration and instead invest them in prevention, rehabilitation, and support services. Asked about criminal justice preferences, the vast majority of violent crime victims said they support community-based victim services, mental health crisis response, and violence prevention outreach workers as well as alternatives to incarceration and reducing sentences for people in prison that participate in rehabilitation.

“This data aligns with what we’ve known for many years, that the majority of survivors of violent crime believe that a justice system that simply responds to crime after it’s already occurred does nothing to prevent harm from occurring again in the future,” said Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, herself a survivor of crime who has lost two brothers to gun violence. “The communities most affected by violence want increased investments in public health resources, violence prevention and rehabilitation that stop cycles of crime. Yet, public dialogue often excludes the voices of Black and Brown survivors, many of whom are most harmed by the failures of our public safety system and least helped by that same system. It’s critical that decision-makers hear our voices now. Because more than anything else, most crime survivors want what happened to them to never happen to anyone else again. Mass incarceration and more excessive spending on the criminal justice system won’t accomplish that.”               

According to the survey, 65 percent of respondents favored taking individual circumstances into account over automatically adding extra years onto a sentence because of past convictions. Sixty-one percent of respondents favor rehabilitation, mental health treatment and drug treatment over punishment through incarceration. An identical 61 percent said they favor shorter prison sentences and spending more money on prevention and rehabilitation over prison sentences that keep people in prison for as long as possible. And a whopping 69 percent of respondents said they favor solving neighborhood problems and stopping repeat crimes through prevention and rehabilitation, even if it means fewer convictions, over prosecuting crimes to get as many convictions and prison sentences as possible. 

In addition, according to the survey: 

  • 88 percent of victims support expanding community-based victim services to help more victims of violence get access to programs that help them with stability and recovery from trauma
  • 85 percent of victims support increasing the number of community-based violence prevention workers who mediate conflicts and help prevent young people from getting involved in gangs or gun violence
  • 82 percent of survivors favor alternatives to incarceration such as diversion, mental health treatment, restorative justice, and community services
  •  82 percent support expanding mental health crisis response so that emergency calls about psychiatric crises are handled by mental health experts instead of police
  • 80 percent are in support of reducing prison sentences for people in prison who participate in rehabilitation, mental health, substance abuse, educational, or vocational programs

The survey also found that just 21 percent of victims received help understanding the courts and legal system in the aftermath of their crime, only 25 percent received medical assistance or physical therapy, less than 30 percent received counseling or other mental health support and just 15 percent of victims received emergency or temporary housing.

“Our communities are in the midst of a violence and homicide crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and decades of systemic failure to advance real safety solutions in communities most harmed. We simply cannot afford to react in a way that just responds to harm and violence after it has already occurred,” said Hollins. “This is an issue that must transcend politics. Human lives are at stake. We must ensure we invest in the policies and approaches that science and data have proven to prevent violence and harm from occurring in the first place.”    

A memo outlining the survey results is available online here

About Californians for Safety and JusticeCalifornians for Safety and Justice (CSJ) is a nonprofit working with Californians from all walks of life to replace prison and justice system waste with common sense solutions that create safe neighborhoods and save public dollars. Through policy advocacy, grassroots mobilization, public education, alliances and support for local best practices, we promote strategies to stop the cycle of crime, reduce reliance on incarceration and build healthy communities. For more information, please visit: safeandjust.org