In a sharply worded letter to Congress today, Attorney General Thurbert Baker joined with the Attorneys General of all fifty states to express “concern about drastic cuts” of more than $1.2 billion proposed by the Bush Administration which would come from the Federal Crime Victims Fund. The Fund is used to provide direct assistance to victims of violent crimes.
“The Administration’s proposal to remove $1.27 billion from the Crime Victims Fund would have a devastating impact on our ability to support victims of crime,” according to Attorney General Baker. The Federal Crime Victims Fund was first created by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). VOCA funds come entirely from collections from federal criminal fines, forfeitures and special assessments – not from taxpayers. Through grants to state victim compensation programs, victims of violent crimes throughout the country have been able to get help for medical care, mental health counseling, funeral and burial expenses, and other vital services.
Attorney General Baker added that, “This program is funded entirely by criminal fines and forfeitures. Not one dime has to come from the American taxpayers. If enacted, these cuts will make certain that crime victims around the country are victimized once again, this time by the federal government.”
In the letter to Congress, the Attorneys General noted that 4,400 local programs depend on VOCA assistance grants to provide necessary services to nearly 4 million victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, drunk driving, elder abuse and robberies, as well as families of homicide victims and other victims of crime. The Attorneys General pointed out that “VOCA is the only federal grant program that supports direct assistance services to victims of every description.”
The appeal to Congress to reject these budget cuts coincided with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 10-16. The Attorneys General asked Congress to protect funding for vital crime victim services and assure the future availability of these monies to the Crime Victims Fund.
Attorney General Baker concluded his appeal to Congress by reminding Congress that currently the Crime Victims Fund monies come from those most responsible through fines and forfeitures. By slashing funding for this program, the federal government would force many victims to go without these vital services entirely. According to Attorney General Baker, “The time is now for Congress to act, because failing to do so will have devastating consequences for crime victims looking to put their lives back together.”