Chapter One


This report describes how the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) has been implemented at the federal, state, and local levels and assesses its impact on the lives of crime victims. The report begins with a summary of VOCA and the Crime Victims Fund (Fund), the funding mechanism for victim assistance and victim compensation programs and national-scope training throughout the country. It then examines the victim assistance and victim compensation formula grant programs administered by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC). Nearly 90 percent of the Fund's monies are distributed through these two formula grant programs to serve the nation's crime victims. The report also highlights significant training and technical assistance grants supported by the Crime Victims Fund to improve the delivery of services to crime victims, as well as efforts to distribute information about victims issues and programs through OVC and the OVC Resource Center. Finally, the report describes federal leadership efforts on behalf of victims and offers recommendations for further legislative action.

VOCA has fulfilled the original intent of Congress to:

encourage states to improve their assistance to crime victims;

expand and enhance existing direct service programs by providing funding support;

promote comprehensive services to crime victims across the United States by encouraging coordination;

increase the number of programs and availability of services;

improve the quality of services to crime victims, including victims of federal crimes;

ensure that services are offered to victims of sexual assault, child abuse, and domestic violence, as well as other victims of violent crimes;

encourage victim cooperation with law enforcement and participation in the criminal justice process; and

assist victims in obtaining compensation benefits.

When reauthorized in 1988, the Act gave responsibility for the administration of VOCA to the Director of OVC, including specific responsibilities for:

establishing rules and procedures for distributing deposits in the Crime Victims Fund in accordance with the Act's formula; and

serving as the federal advocate for crime victims' issues through leadership; promoting innovative approaches to improve the criminal justice system and services to victims; and coordinating victims services among agencies within OJP, federal and state agencies, and national organizations.

Crime Victims Fund

The Crime Victims Fund was established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) and serves as the funding source for all Department of Justice-assisted victim services throughout the country. Originally, VOCA limited that portion of the Fund available for victim services to $100 million. During the last decade, however, Congress steadily raised, and then ultimately eliminated, the ceiling. The elimination of the ceiling, coupled with increased deposits into the Fund, has enabled OVC to continue to supplement state efforts to serve more crime victims (see Chart 1, Crime Victims Fund Deposits).

Chart 1

Clerks of Federal Courts, Financial Litigation Unit staff from U.S. Attorneys' Offices, and Bureau of Prisons officials throughout the country collect fines and penalties from felons and misdemeanants convicted of violating federal law. When deposited into the Fund, this money supports:

grants to state victim compensation programs;

grants to state victim assistance agencies for community victim service programs;

training and technical assistance for victim assistance professionals;

services for victims of federal crimes; and

Children's Justice Act (CJA) program purposes.

The sources of revenue for the Fund are:

fines collected from persons convicted of federal criminal offenses, with limited exceptions;(1)

forfeited appearance bonds and bail bonds collected under Section 3146 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code;

special penalty assessments on criminal convictions. Created in 1984 by VOCA, these assessments represent the largest number of transactions among Fund revenue sources, but yield only 1 to 4 percent of the total amount deposited;(2) and

criminal penalties for nonappearance assessed in addition to forfeitures.

The Clerks of the Courts and the Administrative Office of United States Courts' National Fine Center receive the money deposited into the Crime Victims Fund. These deposits are the results of collection and enforcement efforts by criminal prosecutors, the United States Attorneys Offices' Financial Litigation Units, and United States Probation Officers. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) also collects a substantial amount of money every year for the Fund through its Inmate Financial Responsibility Program.(3) In FY 1995, the BOP deposited more than $4.5 million dollars into the Fund. Money collected and deposited into the Fund during one fiscal year is disbursed in the following year.

Distribution of the Fund

Between 1992 and 1994, the distribution of the Fund changed slightly.(4). Prior to 1988, VOCA provided funding support to State Crime Victim Compensation Programs at the rate of 35 percent of total payments to crime victims from state funding sources in a prior year. Currently, the statutorily established rate is 40 percent.(5)

In 1994, Congress enacted the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which distributed the Fund in the following manner:

Table 1

The distribution of dollars deposited in the Fund:

--$6.2 million is made available to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts through FY 1995. Thereafter, the first $3 million was to be allocated for that purpose.

--$10 million is made available for Children's Justice Act programs, of which:

--85 percent is administered by HHS.

--15 percent is administered by OVC to help Native American Indian tribes develop, establish and operate programs designed to improve the handling, investigation, and prosecution of child abuse cases, especially child sexual abuse cases.

Of the remaining funds:

--48.5 percent is allocated for state crime victim assistance grants. It should be noted, however, that the amount of funds available for VOCA victim assistance grants each year often includes funds not used by the VOCA victim compensation program. For example, for FY 1994 grants, the compensation grant program was allocated a total of $63,054,000. Because state compensation program, by statute, only could use $60,680,000 (or 40% of their certified payout), the total amount available for VOCA victim assistance grants increased to $65,463,000.

--48.5 percent is allocated for state crime victim compensation grants.

--3 percent is allocated for training and technical assistance and demonstration projects (up to 1.5 percent) and services through OVC to victims of federal crime (at least 1.5 percent).

The current distribution of the entire Fund by percentage, including earmarks for the Administrative Office for U.S. Courts and HHS, is described in Chart 2, Crime Victims Fund Distribution.

Chart 2

1. 1 Excluded are fines collected pursuant to the following: Section 11(d) of the Endangered Species Act [16 U.S.C. 1540(d)]; Section 6(d) of the Lacey Act Amendment of 1981 [16 U.S.C. 3375(d)]; the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act [45 U.S.C. 351 et seq.]; the Postal Service Fund [39 U.S.C. 2601(a)(2) and 29 U.S.C. 2003]; the Navigable Waters Revolving Fund of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act [33 U.S.C. 1321(311)]; county public school funds [18 U.S.C. 3613].

2. 2 A convicted individual is assessed $5 for Class C misdemeanors; $10 for Class B; and $25 for a Class A misdemeanor. For other than individuals (e.g. a corporate offender), the assessed amount is $25 for a Class C misdemeanor; $50 for Class B; and $125 for a Class A misdemeanor. For felons, the amounts are $50 for individuals and $200 for corporate offenders. [Section 3013 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code.]

3. 3 The Federal Bureau of Prisons established the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program in 1987. The program encourages inmates to pay their fines, special assessments and restitution, along with court-ordered obligation while in custody. Since 1987, the Bureau of Prisons has collected more than $54 million through this program.

4. 4 As enacted in 1984, VOCA specified a simple division of the Crime Victims Fund, which was capped at $100 million a year. Fifty percent was available for state crime victim compensation grants, with each state receiving no more than 35 percent

5. of the previous year's compensation payments to eligible crime victims from that state's funding sources. Up to 50 percent, plus any amount not expended for compensation, was available for state crime victim assistance grants. The Attorney General, or if designated, the Director of OVC, was authorized to apply up to 5 percent of the amount available for victim assistance to victims of federal crime. Any amount collected in excess of a $100 million ceiling was deposited in the U.S. Treasury's General Fund.

The Children's Justice and Assistance Act of 1986 (CJA)

(Pub. L. 99-401) amended VOCA to change the Fund distribution formula and raise the ceiling on the Fund to $110 million. CJA also allocated up to $10 million of the Fund to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for state grants to improve the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases, particularly child sexual abuse. $8.5 million of this amount is transferred to HHS while $1.5 million remains at OVC to help Native American communities to improve the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases.

The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 later set a $125 million ceiling on the Fund for Fiscal Years 1989 through 1991 and thereafter a $150 million ceiling through FY 1994. The Crime Control Act of 1990, however, increased the ceiling to $150 million by 1991.

The Federal Courts Administration Act of 1992 (Pub. L. 102-572) eliminated the Fund ceiling entirely, beginning with deposits made in FY 1993. It also eliminated VOCA's sunset provisions. In addition, Public Law 102-572 altered the allocation formula by requiring that the first $6.2 million deposited into the Fund in FY 1993 through 1995 be available to support the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts' efforts to collect fines. Thereafter, the first $3 million was to be allocated for that purpose.

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