How to Fix Illinois Crime Victim Compensation Program
There is a phrase that survivors and advocates of gun violence often use: “Hurt people, hurt people. This cyclical dynamic has repeated itself time and time again in the streets of Chicago, where we see historically disadvantaged communities ravaged by gun violence. As healthcare providers, survivors, activists, and organizations faced with the harsh realities of navigating the compensation system, we often wonder how we could break this pattern. How to reduce the persistent and widespread impacts of gun violence on victims and their families so as not to produce another generation of injured people?
The Illinois Crime Victim Compensation Program was designed to help answer this question, but as we learned in a recent report from The Trace, The Chicago Sun-Times, and Block Club Chicago, as well as our trauma patient surveys, the program falls short of its goals. Most families, even those most affected by gun violence, are unaware of the program’s existence, some polls indicate. Those who know it often find it difficult to access its benefits, including cash reimbursements for clothing and medical treatment related to injuries from violent crime. Between 2015 and 2020, less than 4 in 10 applicants received a refund.
As of August 2022, as the Illinois SAFE-T provision that increases monetary benefits for victims of crime comes into effect, the Crime Victims Compensation Program will offer up to 45 $ 000 to each survivor or immediate family member by crime to settle hospital bill issues, seek mental health support, relocate their home address, and more. These services are essential because they address and reduce risk factors for family violence, thus preventing vulnerable people from being victimized again.
We are writing to hold government officials to account during this critical time in implementation. We call for these concrete measures to be adopted immediately:
- Dramatically improve overall access through increased administrative support, awareness, transparency of claim status and timely compensation, especially in high-risk communities.
- Improve compensation through an emergency 24-hour allocation process, retroactive compensation for survivors and family members, and direct billing for services such as mental health counseling or rent payment.
- Evaluate the program to determine whether rewards are distributed fairly, in a timely manner, and without barriers, and in a manner that achieves program objectives.
When we surveyed trauma patients at the University of Chicago Medical Center who returned for their appointments after discharge, 69% said they were unaware of the Victims’ Compensation program. Illinois criminals. After receiving a brief description of the program, 66 percent of these patients said they needed the program, exceeding the proportion of patients who said they needed survivor support (38 percent) or legal assistance. (35 percent).
The story cannot end there. With the updates to this program brought by the SAFE-T Act, now is the time to push the State of Illinois and the Attorney General to properly implement and notify the public of these changes. Our state must do better.
Our recommendations will consolidate the spirit of the SAFE-T law and give it the teeth it so badly needs:
- Create and implement a multilingual public education and awareness campaign on the Illinois Crime Victim Compensation Program for health care providers, community activists, religious communities and other community organizations based in areas disproportionately affected by armed violence.
- Provide stable and sustainable funding to community organizations to help survivors of crime and families seek compensation in a timely manner. Because the form is so complex, at this point it is difficult for organizations to say exactly how much funding each organization needs.
- Simplify the form to such an extent that it does not require specialized expertise to complete it. The claim for compensation for victims of crime after trauma should not in itself be a traumatic event for survivors due to the unnecessary complexity of the form.
- Make sure applicants for the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Program are able to review the status of their claim and receive updates by email, phone, or phone. easily accessible website portal.
- Deal with the urgent implementation of the changes made by the SAFE-T law, which includes:
- Expanding the definition of victims of crime for the purposes of compensation
- Increase the time after a crime during which victims can claim compensation
- Prohibition on prohibiting compensation based on criminal history through punitive practices such as exclusion from gang lists
- Increased monetary support for loss of future income and for funeral costs
- Ensure that compensation is paid to the immediate family members of the victims
- Strengthen institutional support. Due to the long waiting times and low rate reimbursement, there must be an immediate and appropriate endowment to process claims and provide timely determination of eligibility and distribution of funds.
- Ensure analysts are better able to verify necessary details of the request once eligibility has been determined. This is important so that fewer claims are labeled as ‘allowance but no compensation’ – meaning the claimant met the eligibility criteria, but analysts were unable to verify all the necessary details of the claim. asks, leaving the survivor without the support they are entitled to.
- Institute and pay retroactive compensation for survivors and immediate family members.
Until survivors and their families receive the compensation they deserve, they remain at risk of victimization, financial hardship, job loss and societal alienation, all of which fuel the cycle of gun violence. We call on the State of Illinois and the Attorney General to help break this cycle.