Black Wounds Matter

The idea of mobilizing crime survivors for criminal-justice reform may sound obvious, but it’s not—or, at least, it hasn’t been. Lenore Anderson, the executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, once worked at the district attorney’s office in San Francisco. There, she said, “I experienced communities under siege from violence—from cycles of violence—where there were little to no resources to address it.” She’d seen much the same in her earlier work with incarcerated youth, who often had long histories of prior victimization. When Anderson went on to create Californians for Safety and Justice, in 2012, she knew she wanted this insight to be part of the group’s mission. By bringing perspectives like Thomas’s into the conversation about criminal-justice reform, the organization could challenge the assumption that crime victims unanimously favor “tough on crime” laws as the best path to safer neighborhoods. She also saw it as a way to insure that “those who have been historically underrepresented” get heard in debates over public safety. “Every human being who has experienced victimization deserves a voice and a chance to be protected from repeat harm,” she said.

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