By Kylie Jones, Fox 13
Hundreds of people, including community leaders, law enforcement, and leaders of the judicial system tackled deep-rooted issues Monday night.
The Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality, also known as ‘HOPE’, held a community event at Bible-Based Fellowship Church in Carrollwood.
Some of the main topics of discussion included criminal justice reform, affordable housing and mental health services.
“These are big systemic problems,” Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, the co-president of HOPE, said. “These are not little individual problems that are easy to solve, so we need all of our elected officials, as well as members of our community, to work together to solve these problems, and we can do it when we work together.”
Several people also shared their own stories and experiences with the criminal justice system and mental illness.
“Even being someone who does have support, it can still easily be that you become a number,” Aliyah Moffett shared.
Moffett is a student at USF, who shared her story of mental illness and her arrest.
“A night in jail or five nights in jail, they lose their housing, they lose their job, they lose their lives,” Moffett explained.
Moffett says she has relied on her counselors, psychiatrist, and her faith to help her get on a path to success. She wants to be an advocate for those with and without a support system, emphasizing the need for more of these resources in the community for people of all demographics.
“Because I don’t have support from my family,” Moffett said.
HOPE leaders renewed a push for affordable housing, in conjunction with expanded mental health services.
They also pushed to expand Hillsborough County’s adult pre-arrest diversion program.
“When you get an arrest record, people don’t realize that it follows you the rest of your life,” Jackson said. “It impacts your job, your housing, your family in many ways.”
The group called on law enforcement and leaders in the justice system to add the offense of driving with a suspended license to the diversion program if a person is eligible and if outstanding citations are for financial reasons. It also pushed for an expansion of jail and notice-to-appear screenings.
“It’s families that carry the burden when one of their family members has a mental health problem,” Jackson said. “It’s families that carry the burden when someone gets arrested.”
The public defender’s office and Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta voiced their support for such reform.
The Tampa Police Department said it’s looking at the proposals to determine if they are feasible and can be implemented.
Ficarrotta emphasized his support for criminal justice reform as well as accountability and responsibility.
View the original story here.