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Aswad Thomas, MSW

2024 Survivor Voices Award
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Aswad Thomas, MSW | Survivor Voices Award
Vice President, Alliance for Safety and Justice
National Director, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice
Atlanta, Georgia

Aswad Thomas is a community organizer, crime victim advocate, public safety policy expert, and a survivor of gun violence. 

Today, Mr. Thomas serves as the Vice President of the Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) and the National Director of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ). In this role, he is dedicated to expanding ASJ’s national network of crime survivors to include those most commonly affected by violence, including young men of color. He helps elevate those survivor voices in state and federal policymaking debates. 

Throughout his career, Mr. Thomas has brought unprecedented awareness of the unique and urgent needs of victims who are most impacted by crime and violence but who have been historically underserved, with a focus on addressing unaddressed trauma. 

He understands the need to stop the cycle of violence in communities and help those who have been harmed to heal. His life was altered on August 24, 2009—at 26 years old and just three weeks from going to Europe to play professional basketball—when he was leaving a convenience store near his home and approached by two men intent on robbing him and he suffered two near-fatal gunshots to his back, ending his basketball career. 

While he physically recovered, he received no victim compensation or help with the psychological wounds of being a gun violence survivor. 

Needing to follow a different path, Mr. Thomas became one of Connecticut’s most outspoken supporters of additional resources for victims of gun violence and a leader in building coalitions across racial lines to advance justice reform and prevent gun violence. 

Mr. Thomas founded Hartford Action, a grassroots organization working to empower communities to change policy and improve the relationship between the Greater Hartford community and the justice system.

Mr. Thomas has continued this work while leading CSSJ in elevating crime survivors as public safety stakeholders through op-eds, Survivors Speak events in state capitols, in-district events, legislator meetings, testimony, letter-writing, digital campaigns, and more. Important work that has featured CSSJ members advocating for new safety priorities, such as Trauma Recovery Centers, across the country. 

Since CSSJ initiated efforts to replicate these one-stop centers to support victims of violent crime who are unlikely to receive support through the traditional justice system, the number of Trauma Recovery Centers has grown from just one center to more than 52 in 11 different states. 

Since its inception, CSSJ has won more than 40 policy reforms to expand support and resources for underserved crime victims. CSSJ’s policy reforms have expanded eligibility to access victim compensation and victim assistance to more than 500,000 crime victims and secured more than $3 billion in public funding for safety solutions.

2024 National Crime Victims' Service Awards Tribute Video

Watch this tribute video about Aswad Thomas, 2024 recipient of the Survivor Voices Award.