Investments in rehabilitation and victim services are essential for public safety – Orange County Register

Earlier this year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed the nation’s most sweeping piece of legislation to permanently seal old conviction records.

It was the latest in a series of recent legislative and budget reforms that reorient California’s approach to safety and justice toward what works: prevention and cure rather than punishment and incarceration.

The measure, Senate Bill 731, will not erase criminal records but seal them, removing a barrier allowing Californians who have already been arrested or convicted to pursue jobs, housing and educational opportunities.

The law synchronizes with $300 million in investments in the 2022-2023 state budget for crime prevention and other programs that provide people with ways to successfully and safely return to their communities.

It also follows other budgetary investments increasing and expanding compensation and services for survivors of crime at a time of greatest need and deepest crisis.

These historic advances are not victories only for those involved and harmed by the justice system. They are an essential buttress for the state as a whole.

According to a recent statewide poll of likely voters, jobs, the economy and inflation are the most pressing issues facing the state.

Investments in justice reform, far from following a parallel path, are closely linked to these priority concerns.

Let’s do the math: Under SB 731, more than a million Californians with criminal histories—pretty much the entire population of San Jose—will be able to turn a new leaf in their lives when opportunities previously barred to them s will open.

The state stands to gain approximately $20 billion in annual gross domestic product that we are currently losing because an entire swathe of our population – disproportionately and unfairly people of color – have been disenfranchised for past convictions.

Meanwhile, rehabilitation programs and addiction and mental health treatment services will receive a massive infusion from the state budget, along with funding for a flexible cash assistance program and housing for emergency transition for people returning home after serving a sentence – all aimed at helping people with cases and their families achieve stability and safety.

Now let’s move on to victims of crime. About one in three Californians has been the victim of a crime in the past ten years, but fewer than one in five report receiving medical or financial help or counseling.

These statewide findings follow a new national survey of crime survivors released earlier this fall, confirming that most victims do not receive help following a crime.

Hundreds of thousands of crime victims in California are burdened each year with medical bills, lost wages, and untreated injuries or trauma that can affect their ability to work and support their families.

The majority of victims of crime live paycheque to paycheque; a single unexpected expense can plunge them into debt and despair.

I speak from experience.

I lost three members of my family to gun violence. Each loss of life is a wound that, if left unhealed, can tear generations apart.

Under the new state policy, victims of crime will be given the life raft they need to stay afloat and the resources to heal for the long term.

They will be able to benefit from a $50 million program, the first of its kind in the country, which provides direct and fast cash assistance as well as higher caps on reimbursements for things like burial and funeral expenses. .

For the first time, victims on parole and probation will have access to the state compensation fund.

Taken together, these investments and policy reforms represent the beginning of a bold new direction in California’s safety and justice strategy, a strategy that communities hardest hit by crime have been calling for for decades.

That’s why the majority of victims surveyed say they would prefer, by a margin of almost two to one, that the justice system invest more in crime prevention, rehabilitation and crisis support than incarceration. , which didn’t make us any safer.

More than anything, survivors of a crime don’t want others to go through what they had to endure.

California, like the rest of the country, faces a financial forecast clouded by covid setbacks and the threat of inflation.

Amid this uncertainty, the state’s commitment to healing and rehabilitation is a ray of light, backed by dollars and a vision to help people recover from harm and break free from cycles of crime. .

These are the key elements of the kind of comeback stories that we can all follow.

Tinisch Hollins is executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, the state’s largest criminal justice reform organization.