In the summer of 2009, a few weeks before starting his professional basketball career in Europe, Aswad Thomas walks out of a Hartford, Conn., convenience store And in an armed robbery. Two shots to the back ended his career – and almost his life.
why it matters: Police spoke to Thomas about the case but never asked about his recovery or told him of the services he was entitled to as a victim of a crime.
- But Thomas, who is now . is the director of Crime Survivor for Safety and Justice, tells Nerdshala, how the pandemic and the national examination of systemic racism have shed a light on long-standing shortcomings around the treatment of non-white victims of crime over the past year and a half.
big picture: Organizers say victims’ lawyers have been disproportionately white and focused on white victims – even though Victims of crime are disproportionately black.
- Violent crime, including murder, rose sharply last year. And a 2018 Washington Post Analysis Of the nearly 50,000 homicides found nationwide, 63% of white victims were arrested in the homicides, compared with 48% with Latino victims and 46% with black victims.
- “In my immediate family, five out of 10 men were victims of gun violence, and none of us ever received any support,” Thomas tells Nerdshala.
- This also includes his father and brother, Thomas said. Everyone told him that no crime victim’s lawyer ever reached them.
how it works: Victims of crime in many states have access to financial assistance, crisis counseling, legal services, and information on suspects moving through the criminal justice system.
- But some states deny victims of crime access to compensation if they have been convicted of a crime themselves. — even minor offenses, years ago — said Stephen Massey, chief operating officer of City Lookout Counseling & Trauma Recovery Center in Springfield, Ohio.
- “We had the Dayton mass shooting here (in 2019) where we had 20 victims who were denied victim compensation in the past because of things related to things like toxicology… things that were really irrelevant,” Massey said.
What will happen next: Thomas and other activists have been advocating for trauma recovery centers to address inequalities.
- The centers offer free clinical case management, psychotherapy, crisis intervention, and drug management as well as legal advocacy and help with filing police reports and accessing victim compensation funds.
- About three dozen have opened in recent years in California, Ohio and Michigan, and more are planned in Texas and Florida.
- The centers aim to improve relations between communities and local law enforcement, and to work with state legislatures on criminal justice reform.
What are they saying: Some crime victims of color and their families are raising concerns not only about their attackers but also about how the system thwarted the attackers.
- In Houston, Theresa Sec Publicly questioned elected officials why some repeated violent offenders are released from prison on multiple felonies and on personal identity bonds. shot dead his brother Last year. The accused suspect was out on bond and was wearing an ankle monitor.
- “This confinement situation ruined two black families,” Sek told Nerdshala. “The family of the victim and the family of the person who shot my brother. Now he can be in jail for life. This should not have happened.”
- Seck has teamed up with Traditional Victims of Crime groups to advocate for stricter bail and bond reforms in Texas. She called it a civil rights issue because crime disproportionately harms communities of color.