published Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Tennessee: Crime victim fund holds steady

Across the country, crime victims funds face reduced budgets, but Tennessee’s fee-based system is holding strong even during the economic downturn.

Tennessee’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund held a balance of nearly $7 million at the end of the 2008 fiscal year, said Steve Curry, assistant to the state treasurer.

The fund collects money though a combination of probation, parole and bond fees, along with money from the federal government and privilege taxes levied against convicted criminals.

Some of the money is then paid to victims of crime who do not have a means to pay medical, legal or related bills.

FAST FACTS

* The number of claims nationwide to crime victim compensation funds has grow by 31 percent in the last decade.

* There were 117,486 claims in 1998 and 172,378 claims in 2007.

ABOUT TENNESSEE’S FUND

Tennessee’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund collected:

* 2005: $10.9 million

* 2006: $11.1 million

* 2007: $12 million

* Forty percent of funds come from privilege taxes paid by convicted criminals.

* Thirty percent is from federal funds.

* Twenty percent is from probation fees.

* The remaining fees are from a combination of parole fees, bond forfeitures and other sources.

* The fund paid $12.7 million on 1,854 claims in 2007.

Source: Tennessee State Treasurer Department, U.S. Department of Justice

“We don’t see the revenue fluctuation as the state does,” Mr. Curry said.

Money has increased each year from $10.9 million in 2005 to $12 million in 2007, the most recent year numbers were listed.

The economic stimulus package signed last week by President Barack Obama includes funding for both victim’s funds and the system of victim’s assistance programs such as rape crisis centers and other counseling services.

Mr. Curry said Tennessee could receive as much as $1.5 million from the stimulus, though the final numbers have not been determined by the Office for Victims of Crimes in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Susan Howley, director of the public policy division for National Victims of Crime, said the funds are a vital resource considering what’s expected of crime victims.

“We ask them to come forward and cooperate in criminal cases. The least we can do is cover some of their out-of-pocket expenses until they receive compensation,” Ms. Howley said.

Ms. Howley said compensation ranges widely from state to state. “A few have a cap of about $10,000 per case, while others are as high as $75,000,” she said.

Tennessee caps individual cases at $30,000 for maximum compensation. The nationwide average is $25,000.

Funding problems in some states are from a combination of rising medical costs and job losses, which can cause more crime victims to seek assistance, Ms. Howley said.

Anne Adams, director of the division of claims for the Tennessee treasurer, said her office hasn’t seen that combination in the claims it has received.

“I don’t think so, we’ve seen medical costs increase, but we’ve not seen claims related to job loss increase at this time,” she said.

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