Crime survivors call for victim services and rehab for offenders still behind bars

Former NFL player Stedman Bailey, a Florida native, speaks with other crime survivors at a rally in the Florida Capitol. At left is a relative of Haley Smith, killed in a hit-and-run crash. Photo: Laura Cassels

Crime survivors including former NFL player Stedman Bailey rallied in the Florida Capitol this week to ask lawmakers to expand services for victims.

They also asked lawmakers to expand services for incarcerated criminals, insisting that rehabilitation and training behind bars would help offenders lead better lives upon release.

JoLee Manning of St. Augustine, speaking at a rally and press conference Wednesday, said her teenage daughter Haley Smith might be alive today if the young woman who killed her in 2013 in a hit-and-run accident had received treatment and rehabilitation while in custody. The woman had 10 prior offenses.

“If she had gotten rehabilitation, she would not have killed my daughter,” Manning said.

As members of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, the survivors were in the Capitol for three days to meet with lawmakers and promote the #SurvivorsSpeak agenda.

That agenda focuses on making communities safer by reducing criminal recidivism as well as helping crime survivors with emergency housing, among other measures.

Bailey was wounded in 2015 when a gunman opened fire on the car in which he was traveling with his cousin, his best friend, and the cousin’s two young children. His cousin was wounded multiple times. Both survived. It ended Bailey’s NFL career, though he is fighting to make a comeback.

“In the blink of an eye, my whole life had changed,” Bailey said at the rally. “I survived though and now my purpose is clear. We need to reduce over-incarceration that doesn’t make us safer.”

Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Miami-Dade Democrat, and Rep. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat from Broward County, joined the group to express support for victims of crime and for criminal-justice reforms designed to rehabilitate offenders and make communities safer when those offenders are released.