Protecting the Crime Victims' Fund: A Rare Gem
When most Americans think about the federal government, they tend to think about the political gridlock and bureaucratic red tape that has increasingly made good governance difficult. But once in a blue moon, a unique and effective idea can emerge out of the Washington swamp, and the creation of the Crime Victims' Fund is a perfect example of one of those rare occurrences. Prior to being elected to Congress, I served as a prosecutor and Judge in Houston, Texas for 30 years. During that time, I learned firsthand how important it is to protect and help restore the most vulnerable in our society. Upon arriving in Washington after my election and learning about the Crime Victims' Fund, I knew how special the idea was, and I was determined to protect and expand it.
In 1984, President Reagan signed the Victims of Crime Act or VOCA into law, thus creating the Crime Victims' Fund. Back then, this Fund was a novel idea.
Convicted federal felons pay fees and fines into the Fund, which then helps pay for services to restore victims of crime. The Fund helps pay restitution to victims; it allows domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and other organizations to keep their doors open; and it pays for a wide array of services that crime victims need, from rape kits to beds in a shelter. I want to be clear: this is not taxpayer money. This Fund allows criminals to pay for the harm that they've caused. In other words, it's like criminals paying rent on the courthouse.
At the end of FY2016, the Crime Victims Fund had a balance of more than $12 billion. Unfortunately, this money--billions of dollars--has been used as an offset for other unrelated programs. I understand the attraction of using a program of this size to help offset other items under the budget, but it is still completely inappropriate. These are non-tax dollars. To ensure that the Fund is protected and used correctly, every year Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) and I have introduced the Crime Victims' Fund Preservation Act. This bill creates a "lockbox'' to ensure that money in the Fund cannot be used for any purpose other than crime victims' programs authorized under the VOCA statute.
Since its creation, the Fund has been a lifeline for victims, offering them the resources and assistance they need to recover and rebuild their lives. This money should never be subject to the politics or gridlock that often derails or hampers other federal programs. The Fund is a rare Washington D.C. gem, a program that serves victims of crime while not being a burden on the American tax-payer. We must work to preserve this Fund and ensure it is protected for the future.
And that’s just the way it is.