Victims of Crime Act Essay

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Enacted in October 1984, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fundamentally changed the way the United States responds to crime victims by providing ongoing federal support for services and programs that help victims rebuild their lives. VOCA established the Crime Victims Fund to sustain a substantial infrastructure of services and financial assistance to victims of all kinds of crime.

Comprised solely of criminal fines and penalties imposed on federal offenders, the Fund receives no taxpayer dollars. Most of the funds distributed each year go to states through formula grants to fund (a) crime victim compensation programs, which pay many of crime victims’ out-of-pocket expenses that directly result from the crime and (b) crime victim assistance programs. VOCA funding serves nearly 4 million crime victims annually through more than 4,400 state and local victim programs, including rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, victim service providers in law enforcement and prosecutor offices, and other direct services for victims of crime.

VOCA funds services that help victims in the immediate aftermath of crime, including accompaniment to hospitals for examination; hotline counseling; emergency food, clothing, and transportation; replacement or repair of broken locks; the filing of restraining orders; support groups; and more. VOCA money also funds assistance as victims move through the criminal justice system, including notification of court proceedings, transportation to court, help completing a victim impact statement, notification about the release or escape of the offender, and help in seeking restitution.

VOCA also supports crime victim compensation, which steps in when victims have no insurance, no workman’s compensation, and no other assistance to meet out-of-pocket expenses related to the crime. The crime victim compensation program pays medical bills, counseling costs, crime scene cleanup, burial costs, and similar expenses. The Crime Victims Fund reimburses states for 60% of their compensation costs.

In the past, all money collected in a given year was disbursed in the following year. However, the nature of the funding stream—all criminal fines on federal offenders—caused the level of available funding to significantly fluctuate. In some years, large fines against corporate offenders caused a surge in deposits followed by several years of declining deposits. In 1999, U.S. Congress acted to ensure a stable level of funding for victim services and programs by placing a cap on the amount of VOCA funding disbursed from the fund and saving the amount over the cap for leaner years.

The Crime Victims Fund became a target for rescission during the congressional appropriations process in fiscal year 2005–2006, an effort that would have bankrupted VOCA by 2007. Although that effort failed, similar budget-cutting efforts may be expected in future appropriations cycles.


  1. Derene, S. (2005). Crime Victims Fund report: Past, present, and future. Madison, WI: National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators.

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