McGrath: Victim Services Sees Increase in Claims, Restitution
HELENA — Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath said this week that figures compiled by the Office of Victim Services and Restorative Justice demonstrate improved service and compensation to victims of violent crime.
“Too often, victims are overlooked in the criminal justice system,” McGrath said. “We are trying to make life a little easier for those who have been hurt by criminal behavior.”
Crime Victim Compensation Payments
The Crime Victim Compensation program provides funds to innocent victims of violent crime. Compensation may include funeral expenses, mental health counseling, lost wages or crime-related medical expenses.
In FY02, the office received 635 claims and paid $804,398. During FY03, the office received 688 claims for victim compensation and paid benefits of $754,126, for an 8.3 percent increase in claims received.
Matthew Dale, director of the Office of Victim Services and Restorative Justice (OVS), said the decrease in benefits paid in FY03 was the result of reduced federal funding.
“Federal funds match a percentage of the state’s general funds,” Dale said. “From now on, we expect the dollars available for crime victims in our state to increase rather than decrease because, this year, the federal match increased by 10 percent.”
In addition to compensating victims, the OVS collects funds. If a victim receives crime victim compensation funds, the offender is frequently required to repay the Crime Victim Compensation (CVC) program. Similarly, if a victim receives CVC funds and later is compensated as part of a civil settlement, he or she is asked to repay the CVC program.
In FY03, the office collected a total of $204,964, an increase of 26 percent over the FY02 total of $162,712. It marked the first year in the program’s history in which more than $200,000 was collected.