Crime victims rally for criminal justice reform

Hundreds descend on Florida Capitol for Crime Victims' Rights Week

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An estimated 350 victims of crime rallied at the state Capitol building Tuesday asking for more victims recourses, but part of the message they’re sending to lawmakers is a criminal justice system that focuses on rehabilitation over punishment.

One by one the members of the crowd shouted the names of loved ones who have been lost to violent crime. Victims said untreated trauma leads many victims down dark paths.

“I had to reach a breaking point and almost lost my life to a suicide attempt before I was actually able to get that help,” said Deborah Ortiz, a survivor of sexual abuse and domestic violence.

Survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the Parkland school shooting were among the crowd. 

Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin lost his life in the Parkland shooting, echoed the call for more victims resources.

“We need to concentrate on this issue, that is trauma recovery,” Oliver said.

Victims are asking for lawmakers to extend the time a crime can be reported from 72 hours to five days. They also want to extend the time they can apply for victim compensation funds from one to five years. 

Part of the message victims are sending is the need for a more rehabilitative criminal justice system, arguing many criminals are victims themselves.

Dr. LaDonna Butler, a victim of sexual assault, who is now a mental health professional, says the two-pronged approach could prevent victims from becoming perpetrators and put criminals back on the right track.

“We need to be able to stop that flow so that people can get services in a way that is responsive to their needs before becoming perpetrators of violence themselves,” Butler said.

Agnes Furey’s daughter and grandson were both murdered in 1998. She argues the best way to prevent future crime, is to break the cycle of violence through rehabilitation.

“If somebody cannot work, cannot function, cannot meet their Maslow's needs, their going to do what they know how to do,” Furey said.

Victims are hopeful their message is getting through to lawmakers. IF not, they said they'll be back each year until they get the change they’re looking for.