Helping Victims of Crime

May 7, 1982

Report Outline
Victim Compensation Laws
Limited Federal Support
Victim Assistance Programs
Special Focus

Victim Compensation Laws

Growing Nationwide Interest in Problem

Many of the 57 million Americans who become victims of crime every year find that the criminal justice system dispenses more justice to criminals than to victims. The legal rights of defendants have been clearly spelled out by the U.S. Supreme Court. But until recently, the judicial system paid only scant attention to the needs of the victim. This situation appears to be changing with the emergence of victim compensation and assistance programs in many states and localities.

“The plight of the innocent citizen victimized by lawlessness deserves immediate national attention,” President Reagan said April 15, four days before the start of the second annual National Victims Rights Week. “Too often their pleas for justice have gone unheeded and their wounds—personal, emotional and financial—have gone unattended.” The president announced that he was setting up a federal Task Force on Victims of Crime (see p. 336), but the administration has no plans to provide federal funds for victim compensation, preferring instead to encourage states and municipalities to run their own programs.

In fact, interest in the rights and problems of crime victims has resulted in a rash of activity on state and local levels in recent years. Today, 33 states and the District of Columbia have programs to compensate victims of violent crime (see box, p. 332). In 1981 alone, six states—Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and West Virginia—enacted victim compensation legislation. Scores of localities have established victim assistance programs that provide services ranging from day care for children of witnesses to psychological counseling for crime victims themselves. And an increasing number of judges around the country are requiring persons convicted of nonviolent crimes to make financial restitution to their victims.

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BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Criminal Law Procedure and Due Process