For over 40 years America has recognized the last week of April as National Crime Victims Week. California honors Crime Victims Week in a variety of ways at the State and Local level.
This year, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation adopted a theme of “Rights, Access and Equity” for their commemoration, which was accompanied by a 4 minute video on their website. The video features CDCR Director Kathleen Allison and CDCR Director of Victims Rights and Survivors Katie James describing their commitment to serving victims of crime.
Here are some numbers – In 2020, the last full year of crime statistics published by Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office, over 165,000 Californians were the victims of violent crime. For their suffering California offered $52.7 million in survivor benefits. Most victims make no claim. Of those whose claims were reviewed by CalVCB, roughly 30,000 victims received payments.
The CalVCB makes prominent mention of over $5 million having been paid to inmates who were wrongfully convicted and now qualify for $140 per day for their period of incarceration. For example, a wrongfully convicted inmate who served 5 years in custody would be paid $255,500.
For the rest of California’s crime victims, CalVCB is not so generous. According to their website, victims of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting averaged receiving $1,996.00 per claimant, while California victims of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting averaged $3,630.00.
In fairness, that’s not all. The CDCR collects $2 million per month from California’s inmates in the form of court ordered restitution. Those are funds ordered by the court to compensate all crime victims for their direct losses from all types of criminality.
Unfortunately for crime victims, most restitution is never paid – and it is not a requirement for good behavior release to do so. The $2 million in restitution collected is overwhelmingly impounded by the CDCR from inmate accounts earned by working inside the institution. Although there is a provision for inmates to personally contribute to their restitution – few ever do.
CDCR collects an annual average of $24 million in restitution – minus a 10% service charge that the CDCR keeps for itself as a fee for managing the program. Leaving $21.6 million for victims and $2.4 million a year they will never receive.
Attorney General Bonta has designated April 2022 Sexual Assault Awareness Month as well as National Crime Victims Week. In 2020, California’s 12,641 rape victims and 798 attempted rape victims shared $2.84 million or $211.00 per victim. Bonta’s office also offers $1.7 million through his CalWRAP program for victims of domestic violence to relocate. DOJ reports in 2020 that there were just over 160,000 domestic violence calls for service. For victims seeking relocation to escape from their assailants, that’s $10.00 per year per victim.
In addition, Prop. 57 – which Bonta supported and declined to amend while in the State Legislature – has designated Domestic Violence and Rape by Means of an Intoxicant as non-violent crimes.
In February, Governor Newsom proposed the Public Safety Package portion of his 2022-23 State Budget plan. These are funds outside of CDCR, DOJ, CHP, and the Courts to augment public safety priorities. Included is $105 million to enhance retail theft investigations, of which $20 million will go to retail theft victims and $25 million for gun buy backs. The Governor is also proposing an additional $25 million for drug enforcement.
Of course, California spends more on criminal justice related functions than the proposed Public Safety Package in the budget. But for victims of crime, 2022 will be another year forgotten by a Governor and Legislature that clearly has other priorities.