Takeaways from the AP report on legislative reforms to victim compensation programs

Across the country, victims of violent crime are using their stories to lobby for changes to state compensation programs intended to help them with medical bills, relocation, funerals or other expenses.

Vanessa Martinez, who survived a gunshot wound to the head, has turned to speaking out at rallies supporting legislation to fund a pilot trauma recovery center in Arizona that would allow more people to recover. ‘acquire help. Dion Green, whose father was killed in a mass shooting at an Ohio bar, testified in Ohio and served on a committee advising on changes to federal victim compensation guidelines , pushing for the removal of existing obstacles. Bernice “Tammi” Ringo, whose son died of gunshot wounds in 2019, testified before Michigan lawmakers, who then passed legislation that increases money available to victims, eliminates reporting deadlines for font and make other changes.

Their advocacy has sparked many changes in recent years when dozens of states have passed bills changing their compensation programs: increasing the amount of money awarded, extending time limits and expanding eligibility, among other changes. .

As part of a series examining compensation programs for victims of crime, The Associated Press has uncovered racial inequities and other barriers in the number of states that deny claims.

Here’s an overview of the main takeaways from the second installment of this series.


The legislatures of more than half of the US states have taken steps to improve their programs in recent years.

The changes vary widely: A victim’s criminal history is no longer an automatic disqualifier in Illinois. The time limit for seeking help has been increased from three to seven years in California. In Michigan, the assistance cap will nearly double to $45,000 this year and more people like caregivers of crime victims will be eligible for survivor benefits.

States have also reduced denials to families based on the behavior of homicide victims and relaxed requirements that victims of crimes must have cooperated or reported the crime to the police.


The United States Office for Victims of Crime at the Department of Justice provides state programs with matching funds tied to certain regulations and a set of suggested guidelines.

The office is revising compensation guidelines for the first time since 2001, “focusing on fairness and addressing programmatic barriers,” according to an emailed statement from the office. department.

It is unclear to what extent these new guidelines will be mandatory.


In the majority of the 23 states that were willing to share detailed racial data with the AP, black applicants had disproportionately high rejection rates. In some states, black applicants were almost twice as likely as white applicants to be turned down.

Although data is not available for the handful of states that have passed recent sweeping reforms, New Jersey revised its program rules in 2020 and saw immediate change.

In 2018 and 2019, black victims made up about 44% of requests but received nearly 60% of denials, according to data obtained by the AP. After the redesign, this disparity has diminished.

In 2021, he was gone.


Catalini reported from Trenton, New Jersey and Lauer reported from Philadelphia.


The Associated Press receives support from the Public Welfare Foundation for its criminal justice-focused reporting. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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