More CA Crime Victims Seek Offender Rehab

One advocate calls the current debate an unprecedented time for crime survivors. A smaller but visible coalition lobbies for tougher sentences and fewer people on parole.

As California has rolled back sentencing laws through legislation and voter initiatives, a growing victims’ rights movement is pushing for alternatives to incarceration, with greater investment in rehabilitation and a reevaluation of what it takes to make communities safe, the Los Angeles Times reports. On the other side, a smaller but visible coalition of crime survivors and law enforcement officials wants a return to tougher sentences and fewer people on parole. The conversations are unfolding as a national spotlight is cast on victims pushing for change. Young survivors of the February shooting at a Parkland, Fl., high school are seeking stricter gun laws. Victims of sexual assault have spurred efforts to overhaul a culture of sexual harassment and abuse in various fields and industries.

Anna Cho Fenley of the California-based Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, describes it as an unprecedented time for survivors. “We work to elevate the voices of those most harmed and least supported, young people, low-income communities, black and Latino communities,” she said. “But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you sit on, the one thing we all can agree is we want healing and safety.” In California, officials began to overhaul sentencing policies after federal judges imposed a new cap on the state’s prison population in 2011. A Los Angeles Times investigation found that the crowding crisis set the ground for a core group of five nonprofit foundations to lobby for a broader shift in criminal justice policy. They have helped fund a network of new community and victims rights groups to push for rehabilitation and youth programs. One of those nonprofits is Californians for Safety and Justice. The group first brought crime survivors and criminal justice experts together in late 2012.