Stedman Bailey, a Miramar native, was drafted into the NFL by the St. Louis Rams in 2013. His career was cut short just two years later.
“I was in the car with my cousin, his 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter and my best friend when our car was shot at over 30 times,” Bailey said Wednesday. “Two bullets struck me in my head and my cousin was also shot.”
“In the blink of an eye, so much of my life had changed. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t speak and my NFL career that I had worked so hard to make a reality was no longer.”
Bailey and hundreds of other crime survivors visited the Florida Capitol this week for the third annual Survivors Speak rally, organized by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ).
Their mantra: “When survivors speak, change happens.”
The group unveiled its 2020 safety agenda at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. Aswad Thomas, its managing director, announced his group’s two biggest priorities: Housing and job protections for survivors of crime and criminal justice reform.
“It is important for victims to be able to take leave from work so they have time to heal, so they have time to recover,” Thomas said. “Or have the ability to move out of a home that no longer feels safe to them without facing negative economic consequences.”
Similar rights were granted to victims of domestic violence last legislative session, but CSSJ would like the protections expanded to victims of all violent crimes. Thomas said the group is also “supporting policy reform that prioritizes rehabilitation and reducing recidivism for people in prison and on probation.”
“Research shows that providing incentives for participation in rehabilitative programs reduces recidivism among people who will eventually be released,” he said.
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JoLee Manning, a victim’s advocate from Jacksonville, shared the story of her daughter, Haley Smith, who was 15 when she was killed in a hit-and-run in St. Augustine.
“I lost my daughter in 2013,” Manning said through tears. “The woman who killed her had been arrested 10 times for escalating crimes. I believe if this woman had been receiving rehabilitation at any time, my daughter may still be alive.”
Sen. Jason Pizzo and Rep. Shevrin Jones, both Miami-Dade County Democrats, both attended the press conference. The two have teamed up to bring a pair of bills (SB 652, HB 201) through the Legislature aimed at combating gun violence, in part by creating an “urban core gun violence task force.”
Florida law already says ”‘the primary purpose of sentencing is to punish.’ The second sentence goes on to say why rehabilitation is recognized as subordinate to punishment,” Pizzo said.
“This year, in a bipartisan format, we hope to change that line from ‘the primary purpose of sentencing is punishment’ to ‘the primary purpose of sentencing is for public safety.’ ”
Tori Lynn Schneider
The Gainesville Sun