We represent survivors of crime, people living with convictions, and organizations serving them. There is an urgent need to ensure vulnerable communities are equipped to stop the spread.
Congress must act quickly to stop the spread among vulnerable communities by (1) rapidly expanding the capacity of crisis assistance service organizations and (2) safely reducing unnecessary incarceration. The stronger the community, the more equipped it is to stop the spread. Click below for the #StopTheSpread Action Plan:
We affirm rapid action being taken to deem critical health and safety functions as essential services and equipping these services with capacity to safely work. Trusted community services and vulnerable community needs cannot be overlooked.
- Immediately expand emergency shelter options for people without safety, including: domestic violence victims, gun violence survivors and reentry housing for people exiting the justice system without shelter.
- Ensure critical assistance services are deemed essential services such as domestic violence shelters, trauma recovery centers, violence prevention, reentry services, nonprofit and faith-based services and other critical supports that can help reduce exposure risks and get people to safety, and sustain existing government contracts for these services to ensure that these resources can continue to exist.
- Establish a one-billion-dollar Crisis Assistance Emergency Response Fund to ensure these essential services are equipped to safely provide support and have capacity to expand access as the number of people in crisis grows.
- Accelerate application reviews and reduce bureaucratic barriers to victim compensation, public benefits (SNAP, TANF, WIC) and emergency housing or other crisis support so vulnerable people don’t face delays to assistance in getting to safety.
- Ensure critical community services can move online and ensure the people they serve can access virtual help by providing technology equipment to providers and expanding free or low-cost broadband and mobile phone and data services so people can access crisis assistance and safely shelter in place.
- Establish or expand crisis assistance navigator hotlines and tele-wellness checks to connect vulnerable people to care.
- Eliminate rules that prevent people with past convictions from eligibility for federal and state housing, victim compensation and employment to facilitate access to safe shelter and reduced exposure.
We affirm calls to action emerging across the nation to take urgent action to stop the spread of the virus inside prisons and jails. See REFORM Alliance SAFER Plan, The Justice Collaborative COVID-19 Response, and Prison Policy Initiative Virus Response.
- Accelerate testing and release of people in prison, with reentry plans that include health access and shelter, especially for the elderly, sick, people who pose no risk and people that will be released soon anyway, with limited time remaining on their sentence.
- Authorize and expand non-incarceration options for people entering jail for low-level crime, pretrial detention, cases that do not involve a safety risk, and cases that usually result in short incarceration terms.
- Prevent people on probation or parole from unnecessary incarceration and exposure by terminating probation or parole supervision for people that have been compliant and are a low risk to recidivate; stopping returning people on probation or parole to incarceration for technical violations; shifting from in-person supervision to remote reporting, and ceasing penalties for violations of probation or parole that are dependent on financial stability.
Ensuring safety is central to our mission.
Long before COVID-19, vulnerable communities were burdened with systemic disadvantages: concentrated crime, trauma, high incarceration and, at the same time, limited shelter options, inadequate crisis support, and economic inequality.
The outbreak and its economic fallout will explode these pre-existing hardships, hurting more people more quickly in communities already at the edge – an outcome that puts everyone at risk.
A genuine, effective plan to #StopTheSpread has to be rooted in a few realities.
- The crisis assistance services that the most people go to for help — from domestic violence shelters to trauma recovery, reentry, nonprofit community and faith-based services — were already overburdened before the outbreak. Today, many are facing breakdown without adequate capacity to prevent the risk of exposure among people in need.
- Incarcerated people are especially susceptible to getting sick because of crowded conditions inside and limited medical care. Many also face vulnerabilities when released because there is not enough critical reentry assistance available and because of nonsensical rules making them ineligible for help. This puts them at risk and also increases risks to the families and communities to which they return.
There are two clear goals that will help us #StopTheSpread: expand crisis assistance and reduce incarceration.
“What my organization needs most right now is funding with an ease of administrative demands, and the understanding that domestic violence will likely increase during this ‘stay at home’ period.”
IL Coalition Against Domestic Violence
OF PEOPLE WITH A CRIMINAL CONVICTION (OR THEIR FAMILY) HAVE BEEN DENIED HOUSING
OF CRIME VICTIMS RECEIVED NO HELP FOLLOWING THE INCIDENT