Historic City News reader attends third annual Survivors Speak event

Jo-Lee Manning, executive director of the Justice Coalition of Northeast Florida, joined hundreds of victims of previous crimes today during the third annual Survivors Speak rally in Tallahassee.  Their goal is to push for legislation that could prevent offenders from hurting more people.

Manning, a Historic City News reader, explains how it is that she feels so passionate about this issue.  Her daughter, 15-year-old Haley Nicole Smith, was killed by a hit-and-run driver in St. Johns County in 2013.  The driver who killed Manning’s daughter is in prison for leaving the scene of a crash involving a death, but the driver had a lengthy list of arrests before the crash, including battery, grand theft, robbery, possession of a controlled substance and exploitation of the elderly.

“The young lady had been arrested 10 times before she killed Haley,” Manning told local reporters. “If she had been offered rehabilitation while she was committing minor crimes, would my daughter still be alive today? That’s a good question.”

The group wants lawmakers to take action to implement further improvements to probation, increased incentives for people in prison to participate in rehabilitative programming, and increased employment and housing protections for crime victims with the hope it will stop criminals from re-offending.

Last year, the Justice Coalition of Northeast Florida played a major role in advocating for the passage of criminal justice reform measure, HB 7125. It was the most expansive state justice reform bill passed in 20 years. 

Manning explained why the group is advocating for better conditions for criminals. She said in a televised interview, the goals are “giving them the tools to succeed when they get out, where they can have a job and be successful, and not continue in the same lifestyle.”

Although a rally is scheduled for Wednesday when victims said they will unveil their 2020 legislative goals, Manning described the organization saying, “We want to make victims less of a victim and help make them a survivor.”