Sometimes, the effects of being victimized can impact victims’ quality of life, their capacity to cope with basic issues related to their daily activities, and their ability or willingness to participate in criminal or juvenile justice processes. In many communities, victim assistance programs help victims identify and address such basic needs, which include:
Housing (both emergency/temporary shelter, long-term housing, and possible relocation if there are any concerns about the victim’s safety and security).
Transportation (personal automobile or access to and payment for public transportation).
Food and clothing for victims and their families (to help ensure their health and basic welfare).
Employment and/or job training (to help promote a basic quality of life).
Assistance with basic issues relevant to children (such as school, child care, medical or dental needs, safety and security issues, etc.).
VICTIM ASSISTANCE SERVICES
There are a number of services that can provide victims with information, options, and support to cope with the effects of being victimized:
Crisis Intervention: Services provided in-person, over the telephone, or via the Internet that help victims cope with the immediate mental health effects of victimization, assess their most essential needs, and provide services such as counseling, mental health support, and help to address sustenance issues.
Needs Assessment: Services to identify the victim’s most essential needs and attempt to meet them.
Emergency Financial Assistance: Funds that are available in some communities to provide emergency cash awards to victims who are in dire financial straits or who need help to address basic survival concerns (such as health, housing, clothing, food, and transportation).
Home Safety Checks: A service that is usually offered by law enforcement agencies or bonded volunteers to improve the security of a victim’s home, either by making recommendations or actually providing physical improvements and reinforcements (such as new locks, security systems, lighting, and landscape design).
Safety Planning: An advocacy and support service to help victims identify concerns and issues related to their personal security and the safety of their family; protective measures that can enhance their personal safety; and contingency plans to cope with emergency situations.
Advocacy or Intervention with Employers: A service provided to victims who, because of their need for medical or mental health treatment, personal safety, help in addressing sustenance issues, or participation as a witness in criminal justice proceedings, may require intervention with their employers (over the telephone, in writing, or in person) to take time off from work without being penalized or possibly losing their jobs.
Development or Enhancement of the Victim’s Social Support System: A service to help victims identify people who can provide them with immediate, short-term, and long-term support, which may include family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, faith community members, victim assistance professionals, or others.
Physical Health and Medical Issues: Services provided to victims that address their immediate-, short-, and long-term physical health needs, and may include transportation to medical facilities; emergency room care; rape kit examinations; HIV testing in cases involving the exchange of bodily fluids; physician care and medical treatment; provision of medication, medical supplies, or assistive devices (such as wheelchairs, crutches, hearing aids, or eyeglasses); and/or physical or occupational rehabilitation or therapy.
Mental Health Counseling: Services that include crisis intervention; a mental health needs assessment; individual counseling; family counseling; counseling for alcohol or other drug addictions; and provision of prescription medication to address the mental health needs of victims and their families.
Victim Support Groups: Programs that provide peer support through victims reaching out to other victims, regularly scheduled victim support group meetings, and advocacy throughout criminal or juvenile justice processes.
Legal Advocacy and Services: Programs that are available on a pro-bono or fee basis that help victims understand and access their legal rights under the law.
Referrals for Social Services: Providing victims with information about additional services that are not victim-specific, such as housing, food banks, transportation, employment, and family support; as well as services that are available in adjunct government systems, such as Child Protective Services, Adult Protective Services, disability services, education systems, etc.
Information Regarding What To Do in Case of Emergency: Providing victims with vital information about “911” emergency services, crisis hotlines, and other resources that can provide crisis responses to their immediate needs.
Information about Victims’ Rights: Crime victims have many rights established by statutes and state-level victims’ rights constitutional amendments. These rights are relevant from the time the crime occurs through the court processes and, in many cases, appellate processes.
Information about victims’ rights is generally provided by most criminal and juvenile justice and victim assistance programs, and includes:
Information about their rights under the law as victims of crime.
Information about and assistance with filing a victim compensation claim in cases involving violent crime.
Orientation to the criminal or juvenile justice process to help them understand what is happening, their basic rights, and any role they may have in justice proceedings.
Information about their right to protection.
Information about their right to attend and participate in key justice proceedings.
Information about and assistance with completing a pre-sentence investigation interview—referred to as “pre-adjudication interview” within the juvenile justice system—which is usually conducted by a probation officer prior to sentencing or adjudication to enable the judge to learn more about the defendant, and the impact of the crime on the victim.
Information about their right to submit a victim impact statement (VIS), either orally or in writing.
Information about their right to restitution, and assistance with seeking and documenting losses for restitution orders from the court.
Information about their right to other legal/financial obligations from the convicted offender, such as child support, payment of health insurance, etc.
Notification of the outcome of criminal or juvenile justice proceedings.
For cases involving incarceration or detention: Notification of the location of the offender while he or she is incarcerated, and any movement (including release or escape).
For cases involving community supervision: Information about victims’ right to give input into conditions of community supervision; their right to protection (including assistance with obtaining protective orders); their right to financial/legal obligations owed by the offender (such as child support, restitution, payment of house mortgages or rent, etc.); their right to be notified of any violations, to give input into any violation hearings, and to be notified of the outcome of any violation hearings; and their right to receive contact information for the agency/professional who will be supervising the offender.
For cases involving criminal appeals: Information about victims’ rights and relevant roles throughout the appeals process (usually provided by the prosecutor’s office that tried the case, or the state office of the Attorney General).
Chapter 3 Victims’ Rights Laws in the United States
Special Topics Supplement: Tennessee Crime Victims’ Compensation
Upon completion of this section, students will understand the following concepts:
The importance of financial assistance to crime victims.
Role of professionals in accessing victim compensation.
Basic eligibility requirements in Tennessee.
It is well known that victims of violent crime suffer physical injury and emotional trauma. What may be less recognized is that many victims also face serious financial setbacks as they struggle to pay for the costs of recovery. For some victims the most important victim assistance they can receive is help in paying for medical care, counseling, and lost income in the aftermath of crime.
Tennessee has a crime victim compensation program that can provide substantial financial assistance to crime victims and their families. The Tennessee legislature passed the Criminal Injury Compensation Act in 1976, and the first awards were paid out in 1978. Victim compensation programs serve as the primary means of financial aid for thousands of crime victims each year. And while no amount of money can erase the trauma and grief that victims suffer, this aid can be crucial in the recovery process. By paying for care that restores victims' physical and mental health, and by replacing lost income for victims who cannot work or for families who lose a breadwinner, compensation programs are helping victims regain their lives and their financial stability.
Victims of nearly every type of crime of violence or abuse, including rape, assault, child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and drunk driving, are eligible to apply for financial help. Family members of homicide victims also are eligible for benefits. About a third of all the victims currently helped by compensation programs are children, most of whom are victims of sexual abuse.
VICTIMS OF CRIME ACT
With the enactment of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA), state compensation programs became eligible for federal funds to supplement state funding for awards to victims. Through annual VOCA grants, federal funds provide 20 to 25 percent of each state's annual budget.
VOCA stipulates that a state may receive an annual federal grant totaling 60% of the amount the state awards to victims. In other words, if a state spends $1 million of its own money in awards to victims in a particular year, the federal government will give it an additional $600,000 to spend. This results in a 72% to 28% split in state-federal dollars spent each year (i.e., of every $1.4 million awarded to victims by a state, $1 million will be from state funds, and $400,000 will be from federal funds). States bear nearly all of the administrative costs of operating the program, since at least 95% of the federal money must be awarded to victims, and only the remaining 5% can be used by the state for administrative purposes.
To qualify for federal funding, each state must meet the following VOCA requirements (every state currently meets them):
Cover medical expenses, mental health counseling, and lost wages, as well as funeral expenses and lost support for families of homicide victims.
Consider drunk driving and domestic violence as compensable crimes.
Not categorically exclude domestic violence victims on the basis of their being related to or living with the offender. (Programs may deny claims when an award to the victim would "unjustly enrich" the offender.)
Cover all U.S. citizens victimized within its borders, regardless of the victim's state of residency.
Cover victims of crimes within the state that fall under federal jurisdiction. This would include victims of crimes on Indian reservations, military installations, national parks, or other federal lands. (There is no federal or national compensation program that would otherwise cover victims of federal crimes; therefore victims are dependent on the states for this coverage.)
The Role of Police and Victim Services
Professionals who work with victims have a crucial role to play in the process of seeking compensation. Compensation programs depend almost entirely on people working in law enforcement and victim services to let victims know that the programs exist. Compensation programs themselves, with limited staffs devoted mainly to claims processing, simply are not designed to handle initial contacts with individual victims. Compensation programs focus their efforts on providing training and information to victim assistants and police who are in the best position to tell victims about compensation opportunities. While programs also distribute brochures, posters, and public service announcements, the best way for a victim to hear about compensation is when she or he is actually facing issues relating to the costs of crime.
For many crime victims, missing the compensation application filing deadline is one of the most painful "second injuries" in the aftermath of victimization. Unfortunately, when this happens, it is almost always due to a failure on the part of a police officer or victim assistant to tell the victim about compensation opportunities. Every person who works in law enforcement and victim services has a professional responsibility to ensure that victims do not miss out on their opportunity to apply. To ensure that this responsibility is met, training about compensation should be an integral part of the program plan of every victim service organization, police department, and prosecutor's office. A wealth of material is available from each state program, including brochures, applications, and information cards, that can help in this effort. Compensation programs welcome the opportunity to meet with individuals and groups, and usually will make staff members available to speak at conferences and meetings.
What specifically can the victim service professional do to make sure that victims get every chance they can to access financial help? Here are some ideas:
Ask the victim about financial losses. Does the victim have medical bills not covered by insurance? Does the victim need help in paying for counseling? Did the victim miss time at work? Remember that financial injury can be just as important to address as the victim's emotional needs.
Tell the victim about compensation. Let him know that there is help. Provide a phone number. Don't assume that someone else has provided this information. Even if the victim has been told before, she may not have retained the information in the initial crisis stage after the victimization. Repeat the information and emphasize the filing deadline to be sure the victim understands.
Help the victim apply for benefits. Give the victim an application and help with its completion. Assist the victim in gathering necessary documentation, such as bills and insurance records. Make sure it is filed in a timely manner.
Follow up with the program. If a question arises in completing the application, call the compensation program to get advice. Once the application is submitted, follow up as necessary to see if you can provide any further help. Sometimes a victim's application is delayed because the program needs more information and can't get the victim to respond. Volunteer to be a go-between.
Follow up with the victim. Are there additional expenses that have come up since the application was submitted? Would it help to call a creditor to let them know that a compensation application is in process? Does the victim need help in responding to a request for more information? Keep in touch with the victim throughout the process to see how you can help.
Be patient. Understand that the compensation program is processing hundreds or thousands of applications and may not be able to concentrate fully and immediately on each individual claim it receives. While many important expenses can be covered, the program may not be able to cover all financial needs. Your assistance can go a long way toward shortening the process, and it can also help the victim with the difficult task of waiting for help as the application is reviewed.
Compensation Program Location and Size
Compensation programs are administered by state governments under state law. About a third of the programs are located in departments of public safety or criminal justice planning agencies, and a fifth are in offices of attorneys general. Arizona and Colorado are unique in operating compensation programs through local prosecutors' offices, under state law and coordination. Tennessee’s program originally was court-based, but is now administered by the State Treasury Department, Division of Claims Administration.
Staff sizes tend to be quite small, with thirty-six states operating with fewer than ten people. Only a few states operate with more than twenty employees, California being the largest with over 400 workers. Tennessee’s program is administered by 5 full time equivalent staff members, with appeals heard by 3 commissioners appointed by the Governor. Tennessee’s program receives approximately 2,600 claims annually.
Annual payouts also vary, mostly according to the size of the state. California leads the nation with about $75 million awarded to victims each year, and Texas is next with about $30 million in annual payouts. Nine of the smallest states pay out less than one-half million dollars each year. Tennessee paid approximately $12.7 million in claims last year.
The state compensation programs are represented by the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards (NACVCB), which promotes an exchange of information and ideas through a network of compensation programs around the country and by various training and technical assistance activities. The NACVCB, which was founded in 1977, provides a strong national voice on all matters affecting state compensation programs before Congress and the Office for Victims of Crime.
Funding of Compensation Programs
State compensation programs receive funding from a variety of sources. However, the large majority of programs get their funds either entirely or primarily from the offenders themselves. Typically, a state will require that any individual convicted of a misdemeanor or felony pay a relatively small fee (usually between $10 and $50) into the crime victim compensation fund. These small assessments build a substantial fund that is then used to make awards to individual victims. Less than a dozen states depend on legislative appropriations to make awards to victims.
Some programs are gaining substantial amounts of additional revenue by recovering money owed to victims through restitution and civil suit judgments. Programs require that when a victim is paid by the program, amounts recovered from the offender through court-ordered criminal restitution or amounts awarded in civil suits be returned to the program if those amounts cover expenses already paid for by the program. Some state compensation programs are making special efforts to work with prosecutors, judges, corrections, and probation officials to ensure that restitution is ordered and collected. However, recovery of this nature is a minor source of total program income.
Eligibility Requirements in Tennessee
The victim has been a victim of a crime and suffered a personal injury.
A person was injured trying to stop a crime.
A person was injured trying to catch a criminal that he/she saw commit a felony. Felonies are serious crimes. If the person doesn’t know if the crime was a felony, it is advised to ask the District Attorney General or police.
Dependents. A dependent may apply if he/she is a dependent of a victim who died as the result of an eligible crime. A dependent is a “relative” who relies on another person for money or support. Children may be dependents of their parents. Sometimes a husband or wife is a dependent of his or her spouse.
Legal Representative. A person may apply if he/she is a legal representative who helps with a victim’s estate. For example, if a person paid funeral and burial expenses of a victim of crime, he/she may apply.
A “relative” of a deceased victim may apply for grief counseling. Counseling may also be available for a minor (under 18) who witnesses a crime of domestic abuse against their parent or for a sibling or non-offending custodial parent of a minor (child) victim who is sexually abused.
Conditions for Eligibility
In order for a victim to receive Criminal Injury Compensation, he or she must meet the following conditions.
The victim (or the victim's survivors) must report the crime to the proper authorities within 48 hours after the crime was committed, unless the victim was a minor, or unless good cause can be shown for reporting the crime late.
The victim must fully cooperate with law enforcement officials in their investigation and prosecution.
A written claim for benefits must be filed within one year after the date of the criminal act, unless good cause can be established for not doing so.
Telling victims about compensation is the professional obligation of everyone who works in victim assistance and law enforcement. Indeed, providing information to victims about compensation is a mandated responsibility of all victim service programs that receive federal funds through VOCA. And law enforcement officers increasingly are being required by state constitutional amendments to provide information about compensation and other services.
Training about compensation should be an integral part of the program plan of every victim service organization, police department, and prosecutor's office. A wealth of material is available from each state program, including applications and brochures, and compensation programs welcome the opportunity to talk with and train professionals in victim services and law enforcement (Tennessee Treasurer’s Office, 2005).
WHO IS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR BENEFITS?
A person may not be eligible for benefits under the following circumstances.
The individual did not assist the appropriate authorities in the investigations and prosecution of crimes.
The individual contributed to his or her own victimization in any way, such as participating in the criminal act which led to the injury or death.
An award may not be approved in cases where the compensation would benefit the person who committed the crime for which compensation is sought (Tennessee Treasurer’s Office, 2005).
Compensation Benefits in Tennessee
Benefits may vary depending on the date of the crime. The overall maximum benefit currently available under the Criminal Injury Compensation Program is $30,000.
Benefits are reduced by the amount of any other public or private benefits available, including but not limited to, insurance, workers' compensation benefits, or medical, health or disability benefits which may be available to the victim. Payment by the program is secondary to such other insurance or benefits, regardless of any contract or coverage provision to the contrary, as this is a fund of last resort.
For an extensive review of the statutory law of victim compensation in Tennessee please refer to T.C.A. 9-4-205, 29-13-101 et seq., 40-38-109.
Compensation for Medical or Mental Health Expenses
All reasonable medical expenses arising from a covered injury are reimbursable under the program, up to the maximum award available. Mental health counseling may be available for a victim and, in certain circumstances, for certain relatives of a victim as provided for under program provisions.
Compensation for Temporary Total Disability
Victims whose injuries temporarily prevent them from working are eligible to receive compensation for wages lost due to the injury. Reimbursement for lost wages is determined in accordance with the criminal injury law. To be eligible for compensation, victims must be employed immediately prior to the injury. The level of compensation varies according to the victim's salary at the time of the injury and the percentage allowable under the criminal injury law.
Benefits are available to the dependents of a deceased victim, subject to the maximum amounts available under the program. These awards may include up to $6,000 in reimbursement for funeral and burial expenses and $3,000 in crime scene cleanup expenses, subject to the overall maximum award amount. Mental health counseling expenses may be reimbursable up to $3,500 for relatives of the deceased victim of an eligible crime (as defined in criminal injury law), also subject to the overall award amount.
Compensation for Permanent Partial or Total Disability
The program permits compensation to the victim for permanent total or permanent partial disabilities which result from injuries incurred as the result of a crime. Payment for such disabilities are made in accordance with the criminal injury law and are based on the victim's weekly wage at the time of the injury and other provisions in the law.
Compensation for Pain and Suffering
Persons who are victims of sexually-oriented crimes may be eligible for up to $3,000, if it is determined that the victim experienced pain and suffering as a result of commission of the crime. Tennessee is one of only 2 state programs that provide this benefit.
Compensation for Crime Scene Cleanup
Reimbursement may be considered for expenses incurred to clean a residential homicide, sexual assault or aggravated assault crime scene, provided that the cleaning is necessitated by the crime (or processing of the crime scene) and that the residence is that of the victim or a relative (as defined by criminal injury compensation law). Compensation may be available up to $3,000, subject to the overall maximum award amount.
Compensation for Property Loss or Damage
Reasonable costs may be considered for cleaning, repairing or replacing eyeglasses and hearing aids owned by a victim that were damaged or destroyed by the crime or processing of the crime scene. In addition, reasonable costs may be considered for repairing or replacing personal property owned by the victim or relative of the victim (as defined by statute) that was damaged or destroyed in processing the scene of a homicide, sexual assault or aggravated assault if the scene was the residence of the victim or the relative of the victim who owned the property. Otherwise, expenses related to the loss of or damage to any other property are not eligible for reimbursement except in situations where the eligible crime involves loss of or damage to "dental devices," "medically related devices" or "artificial prosthetic devices."
Compensation for Moving Expenses
A victim's reasonable moving expenses, storage fees, and utility transfer fees when a crime occurs in the victim's primary residence may be eligible for reimbursement.
Compensation for Travel to Trial
A claimant's reasonable travel expenses to attend the trial, appellate, post conviction or habeas corpus proceedings of the alleged defendant(s) who committed the crime upon which the claim is based, may be eligible for reimbursement. For these purposes, a claimant may be a victim, guardian of a minor victim, legal representative of an estate (not an attorney who serves as such for a fee), or relative as defined by criminal injury law. No claimant may receive an award if he/she is otherwise eligible for payment of travel expenses by the state or a county as a result of attending the trial as a witness. Travel may not exceed a cumulative total of $1,250 for all claimants and no more than four (4) claimants may receive reimbursement as a result of the "same criminal act."
Compensation for Other Losses
Losses or expenses actually incurred by the victim which are related to the crime but which are not listed above may be approved for reimbursement if deemed appropriate by the Division of Claims Administration.
After a claim for compensation is filed, a copy is forwarded to the appropriate district attorney general who conducts an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the crime. The Division of Claims Administration reviews the claim and may ask the claimant/victim to provide additional information. Upon receipt of a completed claim form and documentation from the claimant/victim, as well as receipt of the District Attorney's investigation and recommendations, the Division of Claims Administration determines if the claim is compensable and issues payment as allowed by statute.
If a minor child is eligible for compensation, the Division may pay the minor's funds to the Juvenile Court to be deposited into an interest-bearing account until the child turns 18 years of age (Tennessee Treasurer’s Office, 2005).
The Division may make an emergency payment of up to $500 if a delay would cause an individual undue hardship. (This is handled on a case by case basis and depends on the victim’s circumstances.)
Victim or dependants of a homicide victim must file a claim with the Division of Claims Administrator within one year after the crime happened or within one year after the victim died. Claim forms are available from the District Attorney General offices and the Division of Claims Administration. The form and the program information are available in Spanish. The form, instructions, and questions and answers are also available online from the State of Tennessee web site.
The applicant must fill out the application form and have it notarized. The form must be mailed to the Tennessee Department of Treasury, Division of Claims Administration. The address is on the form.
The form asks about the crime and the individual’s injuries. It also asks about the individual’s expenses.
An individual must have written documentation of his/her expenses. Written documentation means copies of bills from doctors, hospitals, drugstores, funeral homes and itemized receipts for other needed services.
No award will be made unless the victim or claimant had a minimum out-of-pocket loss of $100 or lost at least two weeks wages due to the injury. An individual’s employer must provide written documentation of his/her lost wages.
The form asks the individual if any of his/her expenses were paid by medical insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, workers compensation, Social Security, the Veterans Administration or other sources. An individual must agree to subrogate the State of Tennessee if the individual receives payments from this fund and from another source. Subrogate means that if an individual receives a payment from this fund, he/she will pay back to the state any money for expenses that he/she received from other sources.
The applicant must agree to cooperate with state officials if he/she sues the person who hurt them. If an individual receives money from the fund and the individual decides to sue the person who hurt him/her, that person must keep the District Attorney General and the Division of Claims informed of the suit. An individual must send a copy of all court documents to the District Attorney General and the Division of Claims.
An individual can fill out the form by on his/her own or get a lawyer to help him/her. The fund will pay an attorney’s fee based on statutory provisions without subtracting it from any benefit awarded the individual.
What happens next? The Division of Claims will review an individual’s form and will ask the District Attorney General to submit a report about the crime. The Division will try to make a decision within 90 days. However, the decision may be delayed if a trial concerning the criminal act is in progress or about to start. If this happens, the claim may be transferred to the Claims Commission (Tennessee Treasurer’s Office, 2005).
SEXUAL ASSAULT FORENSIC EXAM (SAFE) REIMBURSEMENT
Tennessee’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund can also provide payment for a sexual assault forensic medical exam for collection of evidence. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 29-13-118, a victim of a sexual assault cannot be billed for charges related to a sexual assault forensic medical examination. This applies for certain sexually-oriented crimes occurring on or after July 1, 2007.
A medical facility, SANE program, child advocacy center, rape crisis center, or similar provider that performs these specific forensic services should bill the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund directly. (This is unlike how claims for victims’ compensation are handled.) This SAFE reimbursement does not positively or negatively impact a victim’s compensation claim in any way.
For an eligible bill, a provider’s reimbursement is limited to $750.00 and the Fund's payment must be considered payment in full. Payment for this kind of expense is available regardless of whether the victim reports the crime or cooperates with law enforcement. A form has been developed exclusively for filing these requests for reimbursement. It contains all the necessary procedural information for a provider to file and must be accompanied by an itemized bill for services rendered.
COVERAGE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIMS
A number of compensation programs are striving to provide benefits to more victims of domestic violence and sexual assault by liberalizing rules, being more flexible in interpreting requirements, and adding benefits to meet these victims' specific needs.
Requirements that victims report to police and cooperate in investigation and prosecution of crimes can be problematic for many victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. While nearly all programs still require some to report to law enforcement, a few programs, such as New York and Idaho, may accept the victim's seeking of a temporary restraining order as sufficient to meet the reporting requirement. A number of programs also have become more flexible in waiving cooperation requirements if the victim's health or safety may be jeopardized.
Programs also are searching for ways to meet more of the needs that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault may have. Some can pay for moving expenses if the victim needs to relocate. Some states now can cover child witnesses to domestic violence, even when the child was not directly under any threat of violence. A few, like New Jersey, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming, can even replace income the victim received from the offender if that economic support is no longer forthcoming. Alabama has instituted a special process, independent of its regular application procedures, to pay for a number of miscellaneous expenses that domestic violence victims may incur.
Some compensation programs are working closely with prosecutors, judges, corrections departments, and probation and parole officials to hold offenders accountable for repaying to the program the amounts it awards to the victims of those offenders. These programs make sure that prosecutors are informed about awards to victims, so that restitution can be sought and ordered in those cases, and if possible, paid directly back to the compensation program itself. Some programs follow up with various officials responsible for enforcing restitution orders to monitor compliance and urge continuing enforcement. Some compensation programs also monitor civil suits filed by victims against offenders, and communicate with attorneys representing the victims to ensure that any amounts recovered for expenses paid by the compensation program are returned to the program. Alabama, California, and Iowa are examples of programs that are particularly aggressive in recovering funds from offenders.
Recognizing the importance of working closely with victims and their representatives to define and resolve issues, a number of compensation programs have established advisory committees composed of various "constituent groups" to help in formulating policies and improving procedures. Pennsylvania, for example, has representatives of domestic violence and sexual assault victims as well as police and prosecutors on its broad-based committee, which has examined the program's statute, rules, and procedures to help make the program more responsive to victims. Advisory groups in Washington State and the District of Columbia are other good examples. An advisory group in Ohio recently helped the program revise its application to make it more user-friendly.
A number of compensation programs are working closely with disaster-preparedness officials and victim service programs to ensure that they can be part of a coordinated response to mass victimizations. School shootings in Arkansas and Oregon found compensation programs directly involved in ensuring that victims and their families had quick access to financial assistance. The Oklahoma compensation program has helped numerous victims and families who have suffered financial losses resulting from the bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.
TRAINING TO IMPROVE AWARENESS OF COMPENSATION BENEFITS
In an effort to increase awareness and knowledge about compensation benefits for victims of crime, and to stimulate greater involvement of victim service professionals in assisting victims to apply for compensation benefits, many state compensation programs have initiated and developed trainings for this purpose. For example, Pennsylvania has developed an extensive series of trainings called "connections" trainings, bringing together victim advocates, police officers, prosecutors, and community leaders. These regional training programs emphasize the need for collaboration among criminal justice system personnel and other allied victim service professionals in ensuring that victims' needs for information and assistance in applying for compensation benefits are comprehensively met.
Other states that have initiated such training include New Mexico, which offers both basic and advanced training on compensation on a monthly basis, and Florida, which requires all VOCA sub grantees to send personnel to a multi-day basic training that includes several hours on crime victims' compensation.
Adapted from the National Victim Assistance Academy Textbook, 2002; Chapter 5, Section 3.
Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). 1997. Performance Reports, State Compensation Program. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Justice.
National Association Of Crime Victims Compensation Boards (NACVCB). 1999. Program Directory 1999. Alexandria, VA.
Tennessee Treasurer’s Office, 2005. http://www.treasury.state.tn.us/about.htm
Navigating the Justice Systems: Criminal, Federal, Juvenile, Military and Tribal
Christine N. Edmunds, Anne K. Seymour, and Mario T. Gaboury1