The 1984 Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) established the Crime Victims Fund, which has become a major source of funding for victims services across the country. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) recently released a fact sheet for the 2010 fiscal year, which saw a record-breaking 2.3 billion dollars in deposits to the fund.
Where does the money come from?
- Criminal fines, with exceptions for funds related to certain environmental, railroad, unemployment insurance, and postal service violations.
- Forfeited appearance bonds.
- Special forfeitures of collateral profits from crime.
- Special assessments that range from $25 on individuals convicted of misdemeanors and from $400 on corporations convicted of felonies.
- Gifts, donations, and bequests by private parties, as provided by the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001 that went into effect in 2002.
And where does the money go?
While some of the money goes to support criminal justice programs, some goes more directly to victims. These funds can be in the form of direct victim compensation, which includes payments for costs involving medical and mental health care, funerals, lost wages or loss of support, crime scene clean-up, and forensic sexual assault exams. Indirectly, the money is also spent on victim services like crisis intervention, emergency shelter, counseling, and advocacy.
All of these are good things.
But I do question the formulas – crime victims will tell you that it’s difficult to get reimbursements, and the funds can’t be used for property damage. For some victims, that is substantial.
Perhaps most importantly, what about prevention? Yes, it’s in there, even if you can’t see it. Some of these funding streams do wind up in prevention, but not enough. We’re still not critical enough of our criminal justice system to acknowledge our faults and embrace policy changes that would reduce crime.
Isn’t the best way to help a victim to prevent the crime in the first place?
- Crime Victims’ Rights Week (crimedime.com)
- Who Are Crime Victims? (crimedime.com)
- Most UK Victims and Witnesses Were Satisfied With the CJS and Would Report Again (crimedime.com)
- When Prosecutors Threaten and Intimidate Victims (crimedime.com)