As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I know how important it is for victims to be treated with dignity and respect. Too often, victims and their families are lost in the shuffle of the criminal justice system. Left without important information about their case or the ability to speak out about the offender’s sentence, victims feel the powerlessness they felt when they were first victimized. It’s time for stronger laws that protect victims and their families. It’s time for Marsy’s Law for All in Florida.
Marsy’s Law for All simply provides victims and their families with rights and protections equal to those already given to the those accused or convicted of crimes.
Floridians who are victimized should have the right to be present at any court proceedings related to their case. They should have the right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release. And, they certainly should have the right to know if the person who victimized them is being released from prison.
I believe a society can be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable. Criminals now have 20 distinct rights afforded to them through the U.S. Constitution. Victims and surviving family members have none. This disparity should not be ignored and individual states can address this inequity by putting stronger victims’ rights laws into their constitutions.
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Florida has an opportunity to do just that through the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).
The CRC considers, and may ultimately place on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot, initiatives that voters can then decide on. I hope commission members will place Marsy’s Law for All on the ballot and give voters the chance to stand for victims’ rights.
When crime has silenced a victim and ended a life, victims and their families deserve a voice.
Lauren Book, state senator, District 32, Broward County