A new report shows 4 in 10 Texans have been a victim of crime in the last 10 years with many experiencing trauma, stress, anxiety and fear as a result.

The Alliance for Safety and Justice report further shows that 7 in 10 violent crime victims have been victims more than once, and that 9 in 10 crime victims don’t receive the support they need to help them recover.

As a crime survivor, these statistics are all too real to me. I was raped as a teenager and again in my early 20s. It threw me into a repeat cycle of victimization and self-harm. The post-traumatic impact of my experience left me struggling emotionally and self-medicating with alcohol and drugs for many years.

Now 11 years sober, I’m a survivor, and I don’t want what happened to me to happen to others.

I knew nothing about the victim compensation program after being attacked, something that the report showed is true for 2 out of every 3 crime victims. We must do more to raise awareness about this program and ensure crime victims receive the support they need.

In my capacity as regional training manager of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, I’ve traveled across Texas and heard the same thing again and again — survivors want safety, support and strategies proven to reduce crime. Lawmakers have the opportunity right now to enact real changes to improve our criminal justice system and make our communities safer.

The vast majority of the people who get locked up in our state eventually come home. We must send them back to their communities better than when they went in, not worse. There’s no population more likely to be responsive to rehabilitative programs or more in need of them than the population cycling in and out of our state jail system. Research has shown that people are too often choosing incarceration over probation because the probation parameters and requirements are daunting, lengthy and feel unrealistic.

That people are choosing to sit in our state jails rather than be held accountable on probation under community supervision is both costly to the state and doesn’t promote public safety. People who are incarcerated are less likely to go through adequate rehabilitative programs and more likely to reoffend than those who successfully complete probation.

House Bill 3512 by Rep. Leo Pacheco and Senate Bill 2188 by Sen. John Whitmire will do more to focus state resources on helping probationers successfully rehabilitate and become contributing members of their local communities and our state as a whole.

These measures strengthen incentives for probationers to complete faith- and community-based programs, individualize conditions of supervision and align the ability-to-pay in the probation system with those in other criminal court proceedings.

Right now, we simply aren’t doing enough to break the cycle of crime in our communities. Texas can do better, and this legislation is a necessary first step.

Tricia Forbes is the regional training manager for Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.

(1) comment

Bailey Jones

It's the responsibility if a society to socialize its members into good and decent, productive people. We get a chance to do that when we raise our kids with, hopefully, good values and send them to, hopefully, good and decent schools. When that doesn't work, we get a second chance when they enter the justice system. We have a literally captive audience of people who mostly would just like to have a better life and better choices. I applaud any efforts to rehabilitate and, most importantly, reintegrate ex-offenders back into our society.

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