The film can evoke powerful feelings in people and viewers may find themselves looking for a way to channel that energy. This guide provides concrete ideas for getting involved in changing policy around the topics explored in the film.

  1. Push for Meaningful Support for Survivors Beyond Prosecution
  2. Reimagine Sentencing
  3. Educate Yourself on Local Elections


Push for Meaningful Support for Survivors Beyond Prosecution

A recent survey conducted by the Prosecutors Alliance found that survivors of crime have multiple unmet needs. Many need emotional support, health care, relocation assistance, and a way to pay for rent, food, or other necessities while they work through the long-lasting effects of trauma. People who are trapped in a cycle of domestic abuse often need help finding a new job, securing a new home, and rebuilding their lives. At present, neither local governments nor the criminal legal system provide such assistance. It is time for those needs to be met.

There are several things you can do to promote recovery for survivors of harm beyond prosecution:

Push your local government to create and fund a Trauma Recovery Center for victims of crime in your community.

  • A Trauma Recovery Center (TRC) provides trauma-informed, wraparound services for crime victims in a format untethered to the court process. TRCs connect crime victims to medical and mental health care, help victims navigate  the criminal legal system, and offer counseling to help victims get back on their feet. Trauma Recovery Centers are typically located in high-crime, low-income neighborhoods, are led by non-governmental community leaders, and offer services free of charge.
  • Over 39 Trauma Recovery Centers exist throughout the United States. They are located in places like San Francisco, California, Jersey City, New Jersey, Springfield, Illinois, and Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Austin, Texas recently committed to creating a Trauma Recovery Center after advocates in the city partnered with the Alliance for Safety and Justice to develop a localized plan. The city council then passed a resolution to fund startup costs, explore permanent funding sources, and build a coalition of local stakeholders to support the program.

Encourage your elected officials to educate themselves on the importance of trauma-informed care for crime survivors by speaking with experts and practitioners. Prosecutors and law enforcement in particular should be trained in trauma-informed care, so that their questioning does not retraumatize victims.

Advocate for inclusive victim compensation and services. Who qualifies for victim compensation funds is severely limited in many places. These limitations prevent people who have experienced trauma from receiving needed assistance and disproportionately disadvantage poor communities and communities of color. For example:

Advocate for funding for sexual violence prevention efforts before sexual violence takes place. There are many prevention strategies that are known to reduce sexual violence, for example these strategies identified by the US Centers for Diesease Control and Prevention. Communty-wide prevention efforts can change the conditions contribute to sexual violence.

Support organizations, non-profits, and hospitals that provide services to victims in an inclusive manner. Examples of such organizations include:

  • Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia provides access to evidence-driven and trauma-informed hospital-based services for crime victims regardless of personal involvement in the criminal legal system.
  • Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants provides comprehensive case management, advocacy, immigration legal aid, and community-based wraparound services to documented and undocumented victims of human trafficking.
  • Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon’s office provides free services to all victims of crime regardless of whether the victim is undocumented, there is a prosecutable criminal case, the victim chooses to participate in prosecution, or the perpetrator of the harm is a law enforcement officer.

Demand that local law enforcement receive training on best practices for interacting with victims of crime, especially victims who experience sexual assault, to avoid further harm. Here we’ve hyperlinked some best practices guidelines.

Reimagine Sentencing

Brock Turner received a lesser sentence than many other people convicted of a criminal offense in part because of racially discriminatory elements in the state’s sentencing guidelines. Sentencing guidelines are often discriminatory in both design and in application.

One infamous example of discriminatorily designed sentencing is the federal sentencing disparity for crack cocaine versus powder cocaine. In the 1980s, Congress passed legislation imposing a 5-year minimum mandatory sentence on any person possessing 5 or more grams of crack cocaine. A person possessing powder cocaine would have to be carrying 500 grams to trigger the same sentence. The vast majority of people sentenced for possession of crack cocaine are Black. Recognizing the disparate impact on Black communities and the lack of data showing that harsh sentences for drug possession have a positive impact on public safety, in 2010 Congress reduced the 100:1 disparity to 18:1. Efforts to eliminate the disparity altogether are ongoing.

Sentencing is also often imposed in a discriminatory manner. At the federal level, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that Black men receive sentences that are on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated white men. This disparity is mirrored in the state system, where people from communities of color are sentenced to incarceration and given long sentences at grossly disproportionate levels as compared to white people.

In Brock Turner’s case, recall proponents argued that a harsher sentence was appropriate given the nature of his crime. Efforts to lessen sentences for everyone were not considered. In a country where mass incarceration is a racial and public health crisis, this failure of imagination is deeply problematic.

For those who want to advocate for less racist, more fair guidelines, consider the following actions:

Educate yourself about policies that:

  • eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, which require a specific minimum  sentence for a crime irrespective of the individual factors present in the case, like a person’s personal history;
  • remove habitual offender laws that require lengthier sentences for someone who has been convicted of crimes in the past. These laws lead to longer sentences for people of color, who are overpoliced and therefore often have lengthier records;
  • decriminalize low-level drug offenses by legalizing substances like marijuana or removing penalties for possessing small amounts of certain drugs. These laws are disproportionately applied against people of color.

Learn about whether your district attorney supports policies that minimize or avoid incarceration. Such policies include:

  • declination policies under which prosecutors elect not to charge or prosecute people arrested for certain low-level drug offenses (e.g., marijuana) or non-violent offenses;
  • ending the transfer of children to adult court, and instead keeping them in the juvenile system where they can receive services;
  • minimizing the use of sentencing enhancements that increase the penalty for committing a crime (e.g., penalties for carrying drugs in a school zone); and
  • utilizing alternative courts, like drug courts, that, although not perfect, can provide a way for prosecutors to seek accountability without advocating for sentences that involve incarceration.

Research sex offender registries in your state. Sex offender registries are extremely punitive, and they require people who have been convicted of a sexual offense to sign up on a public list indicating their crime. In many states, people are forced to stay on them for life even though they do not pose a present risk to public safety. These registries make it hard for people to get jobs and housing and leave them vulnerable to public ostracization, all of which discourages their healthy participation and involvement in the community.

  • For more on the Sex Offender Registry and its problems, watch: Untouchable produced by The Recall: Reframed director, Rebecca Richman Cohen.

Educate Yourself on Local Elections

One of the most effective ways to improve the criminal legal system is to focus on local elections. Although the public and the media spend considerable time talking about federal policy, most people are arrested, prosecuted, and charged in cities and counties. If we want to change those practices, we need to educate ourselves about and participate in elections for district attorneys, judges, and council members who have the power to shape local criminal legal systems and policies.

Learn more about who in your city is running for:

DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The district attorney (or “DA”) is the top prosecutor in each jurisdiction. A district attorney can also be known as a commonwealth’s attorney, state’s attorney, or various other names depending on the jurisdiction. The DA hires and manages assistant district attorneys, who prosecute criminal cases.

District attorneys have a lot of discretion to set policies for their office, deciding what criminal charges their prosecutors will pursue, what penalties the office will recommend to a judge or offer in plea negotiations, and whether the office will prioritize alternatives to incarceration. District attorneys can provide holistic services such as counseling services or grief therapy to victims. They can even implement restorative justice programs, which encourage a person who has committed a crime to make amends for the harm they caused through a collaborative process that includes the victim and community. District attorneys can work to end sentencing disparities by declining to prosecute low-level offenses, stopping the transfer of children to adult court, and minimizing the use of sentencing enhancements. In almost all jurisdictions, voters elect the DA.

You can attend town halls and debates during election season to ask DA candidates questions about how they plan to prioritize victims and survivors while working against  over-incarceration. You can also support the campaigns of candidates whose values you support, and vote your preferred candidates into office.

JUDGES: In the majority of states, voters choose state and local judges. Judges have the power to implement trauma-informed practices and policies that help survivors feel safe in court. Judges also impact sentencing, because in most cases they have the final say on whether a person receives a term of incarceration and for how long.

If your state elects local judges, you can get involved in judicial races and vote for candidates who pledge to take a trauma-informed approach and who are committed to racial equity. And if judges are appointed, you can pressure the person who appoints–usually the Governor–to appoint fair-minded judges with diverse backgrounds.

CITY COUNCIL/COUNTY COMMISSIONS: City Councils and County Commissions are comprised of elected officials who create local law and policy for their jurisdiction. They pass ordinances and resolutions on criminal justice issues like policing, crime, and victims. The Philadelphia City Council, for example, passed an ordinance that removes police from certain types of traffic stops; the New Orleans City Council decriminalized marijuana by removing penalties for possessing small amounts of it; and the Austin City Council passed a resolution creating a Trauma Recovery Center that will provide wraparound services, resources, and support for victims of crime. These elected bodies also control the budget and allocate funding for police departments, violence prevention programs, Trauma Recovery Centers, and victim compensation programs.

During elections, ask candidates what criminal justice ordinances they would support, what their idea of public safety looks like, and what types of programs they will advocate to fund (e.g., support systems for survivors and/or violence prevention programs). Check out your local city council or county commission meeting schedule and agenda to find opportunities for change.




Additional Material:

  • Screening Toolkit:  Use this toolkit to guide you through the entire process of organizing a screening, from selecting a venue, to promoting your event, to leading a successful discussion, to following up with your audience. It provides a checklist for in-person events and one for virtual events.
  • Discussion Guide: This comprehensive discussion guide dives deep into all of the topics explored in the film. It offers questions to pose to viewers as well as sample answers and additional contextual information to enrich the conversation.
  • Additional Resources:  Use this guide as a starting point for further learning on the topics explored in the film. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it contains articles, books, films, and podcasts that have been helpful and meaningful to our team.