Restorative justice offers several innovative methods designed to heal the injury that the offender may have caused to the victim. One of these innovative methods is victim compensation, a form of income redistribution designed to redistribute wealth from offenders to victims of crime. Restitution, particularly through the Victim of Crime Act (VOCA), is a needs-based form of justice designed to assist the most needy victims of violent crime. Recent studies suggest that while state-level compensation programs may target poor, young, African American men, compensation at the national level tends to be received more by older, White women who experienced domestic violence. The author suggests that this disparity between state and local resource distribution in the allocation of victim compensation is a reflection of the ideological differences between the established theoretical frameworks of liberalism and radical feminism.
Keywords: victim compensation; Victim of Crime Act (VOCA); restitution; social justice models
The topic of this article is the social justice implications of victim compensation funding within the United States. This article examines the increasingly accepted theory of restorative justice and discusses the integral component of victim compensation. The main forms of compensation that are currently being offered to victims are explored with reference to their inherent strengths and weaknesses. Civil litigation, social welfare programs, and private insurance are described as effective only in cases where victims meet specific criteria. As such, a large number of victims must rely on federal/ state victim funds.
Next, a brief history of federal/state victim funding is provided leading up to the Victim of Crime Act (VOCA). We discuss two recent studies of VOCA fund dissemination practices. In the first study, Newmark and Schaffer (2003) discovered that compensation in the state of Maryland was directed primarily at young, African American male victims. In the second study, Newmark, Bonderman, Smith, and Liner (2003) found that compensation at the national level was directed more towards older. White female victims. We examine two social justice frameworks, liberalism (Rawls, 1971, 1993) and radical feminism, as explanations of this disparity, and propose that a liberal framework is a more appropriate model for allocating victim compensation.
The criminal justice system in the United States considers unlawful acts to be crimes against the state rather than crimes against other individuals and society (Siegel, 1992). Critics state that this relegates the victim to being a spectator of the criminal justice system, where their needs are often unmet or ignored (Meyer, 1998; Zehr & Mika, 1998). Restorative justice, an increasingly accepted theory in criminology, offers innovative methods designed to repair the injury the offender caused to the victim, the victim's family, and society as a whole. Restorative justice is considered a distributive or needs-based form of justice as the emphasis is placed on the needs of the victim rather than the nature of the offense or characteristics of the offender (Sullivan & Tifft, 2001). Although restorative justice contains many interesting components, this article focuses on crime victim restitution.
During the fiscal years of 1986 to 2003, the Office for Victims of Crime distributed over $1 billion in VOCA grant funds alone (Office for Victims of Crime [OVC], 2004). Victim compensation funds have continued to grow at a rapid rate. In 1975, $4 million were distributed through the federal government's programs, and by 1998 this number had risen to $430 million (Marion, 1995). While this large amount of money is aimed at reducing the loss suffered by victims of crime, few researchers have discussed the social justice ramifications associated with the distribution of these funds. We aim to fill this void by first examining the variety of resources available to victims of crime, with particular emphasis on the federal and state victim compensation program, VOCA. Secondly, we place VOCA restitution practices within the broader social justice context of need, desert, inequality, privilege, and oppression.
Restitution is defined as "a monetary payment by the offender to the victim for the harm reasonably resulting from the offense" (Galaway & Hudson, 1990, p. 34). Restitution includes the perspective of the victim and has the potential to repair both financial and relational harms (Burnside & Baker, 1994). The ultimate goal of restitutive policies is to remedy victim loss where this is feasible. Though restitution provides financial appropriation, it is not directly intended to remedy the pain, suffering, and emotional damage that victims often experience. Attempts at remedying these nonfinancial losses occur through other restorative programs, such as offender-victim mediation.
MacCormack (1973) states that compensation and revenge have coexisted in most societies regardless of time period, location, or political structure. Laws dating back to 450 B.C. entitled a victim of crime to seek revenge on the offender or a member of the offender's family. Later, Roman victims were compensated livestock in lieu of enacting revenge. Weitekamp and Kerner's (2003) historical analysis of restorative justice indicates the repeated presence of restitution, reconciliation, atonement, community service, and mediation in international criminal justice systems. Although restitution has always been an aspect of the justice system, it is only recently and within state societies that have we seen the renaissance of the more ancient forms of restorative justice.
Restitution for crime victims is primarily obtained from four sources: civil litigation, social welfare programs, private insurance, and federal- and state-funded victim compensation programs.
Civil litigation is an attractive option for some erime victims because monetary awards are usually much higher than other avenues of compensation and courts will recognize compensation for pain and suffering. Also legal action can be directed at corporate entities, further increasing award amounts. However, due to the time and expense it takes to litigate, poor victims may lack the means to take legal action or may simply restrict litigation towards wealthy or well-insured offenders (Sarnoff, 1996). Of course, poor victims may seek lawyers who work on a contingency basis, though they are likely to select only those cases with strong evidence and then take a significant percentage of the winnings.
Perhaps the greatest impasse for pursuing civil litigation involves the processes within crime reporting. According to Rennison and Hart (2003), approximately 51% of violent crimes are not reported to police. In cases where the violent crime is reported to police. in approximately 48% of violent crimes and 22% of all crimes the offender is never caught (Sarnoff. 1996). When offenders are apprehended and prosecuted, they are frequently poor and consequently no financial reimbursement occurs. Therefore, civil litigation appears to be in the victim's interest only if the offender is caught, the evidence is strong, and the offender or organization is affluent. For the large number of victims whose circumstances fall outside these criteria, civil litigation is ineffective.
Another form of compensation that victims rely on is social welfare. Currently, a plethora of social welfare and governmental assistance programs exist, all operating in different capacities.1 Due to the large number of these programs, they usually contain specific criteria that the victim must meet in order to receive benefits, the assumption being that the victim will have access to a range of specifically designed resources. Critics posit that this fragmentation keeps the clients in a bureaucratic cycle where few benefits are actually received (Sawhill, 1995).
First, the victim must obtain the relevant information about the availability of services, and then they must meet the specific eligibility requirements or at least have membership to a particular group, like veteran groups. Oppenheimer (1999) states that social support is inadequate for the "undeserving" poor, that is. those with no children, no disability, and less than 65 years old. This includes the economic group labeled the "working poor," where eligibility requirements or so-called means-tests make them ineligible for social welfare compensation as they are not deemed indigent. It should be noted that social welfare programs do not compensate individuals because they are victims, rather welfare is provided on the basis of other criteria such as economic status, disability, or race. Therefore, the most needy groups in society may receive social welfare, but not necessarily the most needy viciim. Generally, social welfare programs can be effective provided that the victim receives the relevant information regarding their options for compensation and that they justify the selected criteria or means-test.
There are currently five sources of private insurance available for victims of crime: automobile insurance, life insurance, property insurance, homeowners insurance, and health/casualty insurance (Sarnoff, 1996). In 1993. an estimate of the total compensation received by victims of crime via these five sources was $45 billion (Miller, Cohen, & Wiersema, 1996). For some victims, private insurance can produce restitution in a swift and uncomplicated manner. Yet. private insurance contains an inherent bias toward heterosexual and middle/upper class victims.
With regard to a class bias, Sarnoff (1996) explains, "not all people can afford private property insurance, and even some who can afford it are unable to obtain it because they live in 'redlined' neighborhoods, where high crime rates make private insurers unwilling to provide them with coverage at any cost" (p. 29). Homeowners (who are typically more affluent than renters) must have compulsory home insurance, whereas renters do not. Health insurance is more typical in the employed and hence more affluent, whereas the unemployed may be uninsured and the partially employed may be underinsured. With regard to a marriage status and/or sexual orientation bias, private insurance may neglect individuals who are not legally married or who cannot legally marry, as in the case of homosexuals, since they are not covered under their partner's plan.
In short, private insurance can provide a useful source of restitution to those victims who possess these forms of insurance prior to the criminal incident. Yet, this process excludes individuals low on the socioeconomic scale who lack the means to obtain private insurance in the first place, the very group that is disproportionately represented in crime victimization statistics.
To some degree, all of the previously mentioned sources of restitution (civil litigation, social welfare programs, and private insurance) are exclusionary to victims who are poor. To the poor, civil litigation may produce the largest reward, but they frequently lack the resources to prosecute. Social welfare provides the simplest option for the poor, provided they receive access to services through an overwhelming assortment of narrow services (Elias, 1993). Private insurance offers financial rewards to victims but tends to exclude the unemployed, the non-homeowners, and the nonmarried (Sarnoff, 1996). Therefore, for many victims who are poor, restitution may be achieved by means of federal- and statefunded victim compensation programs, particularly VOCA.
VICTIM OF CRIME ACT (VOCA)
Smith and Freinkel (1988) state that victim compensation programs began in the 1960s in an attempt to subdue the social unrest among the poor who felt excessively victimized by crime. In 1967, the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice Task Force sought the consensus of experts on a range of criminal justice issues, including victim compensation. Wide sweeping and optimistic recommendations from the commission's work soon filtered into policing, corrections, and courts. One recommendation included the development of a National Criminal Justice Statistics Center that would gather victimization data on an ongoing basis. Other recommendations included the measurement of crime through sources independent from the police (i.e., the creation of the National Crime Survey and the National Crime Victimization Survey), a shift on focus of the criminal justice system to the victim rather than the offender, and a continuing measurement of victim risk. The organization charged with these tasks, established in 1968, was the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA). The LEAA directed federal funding into educational programs, research, and a variety of local crime control initiatives until it was disbanded in 1981.
Following the dissolution of the LEAA, states became responsible for victim restitution, which resulted in great disparities in terms of the availability and quality of victim services. In some areas, the most cost-intensive programs, domestic abuse shelters, were forced to close down2 (Schechter, 1984). To remedy this system fragmentation, the federal government established the VOCA in 1983. This act was designed to pool funds acquired through the federal fines of offenders and redirect these funds into victim services and compensation. Between the 1986 and 2002, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) distributed over $3.7 billion to victims of crime through VOCA funding (Newmark, Bonderman, Smith, & Liner, 2003). VOCA typically assists victims of crime with the following expenses: medical costs, mental health counseling, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages or loss of support (OVC, 2004).
Each state has autonomy in administering VOCA funds and compensation is paid only after other options, like private insurance and offender restitution, have been used (U.S. Department of Labor, 2004). In most states, the maximum VOCA award amounts generally range from $10,000 to $25,000, and expenses for theft, damage, and property loss are excluded. VOCA may also include rehabilitation services, and several state programs consider pain and suffering in determining restitution.
VOCA was also designed to fill a gap commonly found in the other forms of compensation (civil litigation, social welfare programs, private insurance), that is, to assist victims when the offender is not caught or indigent (OVC, 1999). In theory, VOCA represents distributive justice and needs-based justice in its purest form.
The most complicated aspect for federal and state governments in distributing compensation has been the determination of victim need. State compensation boards deliberating on VOCA fund distribution have an obligation to objectively determine victims' needs and to justify decisions. According to Sarnoff (1996), the critical considerations in determining restitution are coverage, benefits, and eligibility. Coverage refers to the type of crime compensated and the type of loss incurred. Benefits refer to the available pooled fund collected from offenders annually, an amount that is never entirely collected because some offenders are indigent, mentally ill and unable to work, or simply refuse to pay (Galaway & Hudson, 1981).
Eligibility refers to criteria that the victim must meet in order to receive compensation, and usually this centers on the perceived guilt of the victim in the criminal act. VOCA compensation claims are reduced or denied if contributory misconduct is involved. To Karmen (1991), contributory misconduct manifests itself in "victim facilitation" by neglecting security precautions, "victim precipitation" by risk-taking behavior, and "victim provocation" by inciting acts of violence. While the face validity of contributory misconduct appears politically attractive, in practical application it is open to criticism as it raises the thorny issue of victim blaming (Karmen).
Individuals engaging in so-called victimless crimes, such as prostitutes, drug dealers, and gamblers, are excluded from VOCA compensation. This implies that if a working prostitute is found raped and/or murdered, then the family is ineligible for compensation because of the victim's role in the event. One could potentially extend this hypothetical discussion to include intimate partner violence, as the victim may be viewed as "provoking" the attacker towards violence. This may be compounded by several states' refusal to compensate victims who still reside with the offender, because the offender may benefit from the claim. In a final example of victim facilitation, some states refuse compensation for driving under the influence (DUI) victims if they were not wearing seat belts at the time of the incident (Greer, 1994).
While state programs may utilize coverage, benefits, and eligibility in determining VOCA awards, victims often employ a more rudimentary method, one of so-called comparative need. Bradshaw (1977) describes comparative need as the normal pattern of victims comparing themselves to similar groups of individuals. Usually, victims make these comparisons on the basis of the nonvictim characteristics of socioeconomic class, occupation, age, and education (Sarnoff, 1996). Conflicts found in the criteria used by agencies and actual victim need has resulted in critics suggesting that victim compensation funds are skewed toward particular victim groups and payment categories (Sarnoff). Yet to date, no federal agency publishes specific demographic information that could be utilized to examine the distribution of VOCA funds and evaluate this claim.
A search of academic literature reveals only two studies that include aggregate-level demographic information on VOCA recipients. The first study occurred in the state of Maryland, while the second examined national trends in VOCA compensation.
VICTIM COMPENSATION IN MARYLAND
A recent study by Newmark and Schaffer (2003) evaluated the effectiveness of the Crime Injury Compensation Board (CICB), a major distributor of VOCA funds in the state of Maryland. In 2001, the CICB distributed over $5.4 million to 1,355 victims. Newmark and Schaffer conducted extensive surveys and interviews with 104 of these victims or victim families. The participants in the survey were randomly sampled and representative of Maryland victims of violent crime in general. That is, the victims were overwhelmingly African American (60%), male (72%), young (mean age = 24.9 years old), and poor (59% had family incomes of less than $25,000 per year). This demographic portrait of the victims in the Maryland study is analogous to national surveys of victims of violent crime.3
National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data repeatedly indicates that overall, African Americans have the highest violent crime victimization rates. For every 1,000 persons affected by violent crime, 28 were African American while only 23 were White. Being a male with low socioeconomic status is strongly associated with victimization. In fact, the risk of violence becomes pronounced when household income falls below $7,500 per year, as 8 out of every 100 individuals in these households will experience violent crime annually (Rennison, 2001). Also, being a youth brings greater risk of violent victimization, with persons age 12 to 24 victimized at higher rates than individuals of all other ages (U.S. Department of Justice, 2002). As one's age increases, the chance of violent victimization decreases. As Lanier and Henry (1998) explain, "rather than the stereotypical fearful elderly white female, the reality is that teenage African American males are the most likely to be violently victimized; and elderly white females, the least" (p.50).
VICTIM COMPENSATION AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL
The second study found in the academic literature is Newmark and colleagues' (2003) national study of VOCA administrators that was coupled with telephone interviews with 452 claimants. The aggregate-level demographic information in this study suggests that at the national level, VOCA may be directed towards a very different population than the Maryland study. Newmark and colleagues state that the national sample was "older, more female, and less likely to belong to a racial or ethnic minority group than crime victims in general" (p. 99). Examining VOCA distribution by type of crime supports the perception that at a national level, VOCA tends to target women. In the year 2001, just over half (52%) of all victims served were victims of domestic violence (i.e., domestic violence victims are typically female) (Newmark et al.). Following domestic violence, one finds victims of child abuse (15%), adult sexual abuse (5%), assault (5%), homicide (3%), robbery (2%), DUI (1%), and other crimes (17%). Thus crimes in which males would tend to be the victim (e.g., assault, homicide, and robbery) constituted a small portion of the overall compensation.
Consequently, it appears that when looking at all states, VOCA recipients tend to be women and victims of domestic abuse. While in specific states such as Maryland, VOCA recipients may possess different characteristics such as a low socioeconomic background, or being African American or male.
This disparity cannot be explained by research methodology, as the Maryland and national studies of VOCA fund allocation was enacted by the same group of researchers who utilized comparable procedures. Nor can it be explained by specific policies at the state level, as Maryland fund distributors were not restricted in terms of issuing funds any more or less than the states in the national sample. This author proposes that if disparities in fund dispersion cannot be explained by researcher methodology or official VOCA policies, then the social justice underpinnings that appear to be directing both approaches should be reexamined.
To date, there is a dearth of academic studies and agency evaluations that adequately examine the appropriateness of VOCA's distribution of funds. This is surprisingly when one considers that in 1996 alone, state compensation programs distributed over $240 million to more than 110,000 victims nationwide (OVC, 1998). Furthermore, there is little dialogue on the social justice implications of systematic differences in who is receiving compensation and who needs to be receiving compensation.
In terms of theoretical models, if one considers VOCA to be structured under a liberal framework, then the redistribution of funds would be aimed at the so-called most needy. Here, a caveat must be offered. Bureau of Justice statistical reports indicate that certain racial groups disproportionately experience violent crime. Perry's (2004) analysis of violent victimization rates between 1992 and 2001 indicates that "American Indians experienced approximately 1 violent crime for every 10 residents age 12 or older, compared to 1 violent victimization for every 20 blacks, 1 for every 25 whites, and 1 for every 45 Asian residents" (p. 5).
Thus, Americans Indians are victimized at a far higher rate than any other racial group and can be considered the "most needy" of compensation. Unfortunately, and perhaps alarmingly, the Maryland sample contained 0% American Indians, while the national sample combines American Indians with Asians (for a total of 3%), making it impractical for further investigation. Therefore, the following discussion of social implications will remain bound to the overutilized White/Black dichotomy of race; with the acknowledgement that race is a far more complex social dynamic.
With this in mind, this article identifies the "most needy" victims of violent crime as poor, young, African American men. This is reflected in the liberal approach of the Maryland compensation program. Conversely, if one considers VOCA to be structured under a feminist framework, then funds would be directed towards women and violent crimes in which women are overrepresented, that is, domestic violence and sexually-based offenses. This is the model reflected in the national survey of VOCA, and reinforced by an analysis of the proportion of funds that VOCA currently allocates by so-called types of crime. These models will now be reviewed in light of their existing social justice frameworks.
SOCIAL JUSTICE FRAMEWORKS
The Liberal Framework (John Rawls)
According to Wilson (2003), "liberalism, in its classic formulation, is a theory according to which individuals are permitted to accumulate as much by way of resources as their ability and effort allow, subject to certain background constraints" (p. 280). However, this traditional definition of liberalism lends itself to various interpretations and criticisms and has been modified in recent years. The greatest advances in liberalism have stemmed from the work of Harvard political philosopher John Rawls. To Rawls (1993), political liberalism relies on three conditions to maintain an equilibrium between the stability of society and freedom of its citizens:
First, the basic structure of society is regulated by a political conception of justice; second, this political conception is the focus of an overlapping consensus of reasonable comprehensive doctrines; and third, public discussion, when constitutional essentials and questions of basic justice are at stake, is conducted in terms of the political conception of justice. (Rawls, 1993, p. 44)
To Rawls, political liberalism reduces social and economic inequalities, provides equal opportunity to positions or offices, and guarantees basic liberties for all citizens. Additionally, citizens are entitled to basic rights of citizenship and respect. Fortunately, with this idyllic vision of a political liberal society, Rawls also provides an ethical framework for achieving justice, fairness, and equality.
To Rawls (1971), social goods (in this case, victim compensation) should be distributed equally, unless an unequal distribution of these goods (like wealth, power and opportunity) is to the advantage of the least favored. In other words, inequality is justified when it benefits the most disadvantaged individuals in society; this is also termed the difference principal. This represents an innovative variation of the social contract, where free and equal citizens of most need have improved dealings with institutions and those with greater bargaining advantages are restricted to some extent. Rawls suggests that we should create a liberal society from the original position, a state of assigning basic rights and duties to people. To assume this original position in a fair manner, one should envisage a society devoid of concepts like race, gender, and wealth; that is, one should wear a veil of ignorance. Rawls states that it is only in this condition that we can identify the least advantaged and most needy members of our society, and provide them the appropriate goods.
Criticism of the veil of ignorance comes from utilitarians like Miller and Keat (1974) who argue that Rawls neglects to explain why rational individuals would choose to arrange inequalities to benefit the least advantaged. Miller and Keat advocate the principle of utility, whereby goods are distributed to the greatest number of people. This utility principle maximizes the highest average of well-being over the Rawlsian support for maximizing the minimum level of well-being in society. Miller (2003) further argues that although the veil of ignorance enables one to hypothetically place oneself in the so-called needy victim's position, in our current pluristic society, "no single principle seems able to capture all the judgments people make or the distributive procedures they follow" (p. 78). Thus, to Miller, the principles of justice depend on suitability rather than a Rawlsian set doctrine of need. However, in terms of victim compensation, the Rawlsian approach does seem more appropriate, as victims are overrepresented in the lower strata of society and are in most need.
Other criticisms of Rawls come from feminists who point out that Rawls's A Theory of Justice (1971) does not consider either the position of women or family structure in his vision of the so-called just society. To Rawls, the just society must contain a social contract that defines the rights and duties of citizens in relation to the government. However, Rawls restricts the social contract to the public sphere and as such excludes the family as a unit of society. Feminists like Bojer (2002) state that the family is the building block of society and therefore an integral aspect to the social contract. By including the family as a social unit, one must then acknowledge the division of labor in the household, with women usually having the primary responsibility of childcare but diminished respect, no pay, fewer opportunities, and limited citizenship. To some feminists, this suggests that both Rawls and his followers have neglected the position of women in society, a position of powerlessness and oppression. It also calls into question the concept of the veil of ignorance as Rawls "shies away from discussing the organization of the family and of childcare in the just society" (Bojer, 2002, p. 394). To critics, this reluctance to address power issues within the family structure is symbolic of the entrenched gender biases that exist in our society, particularly when the model of liberalism, John Rawls, projects a vision of justice that excludes women. To be fair, Rawls wrote extensively about women's rights in his later years, though to some feminists, Rawlsian concepts will continue to be unfeasible until society first addresses the division between genders (Okin, 1989).
The Radical Feminist Framework
The term feminism lends itself to different ideological positions; therefore it is important to define what one means by the term feminism. Feminism typically is expressed through three models: liberal feminism, socialist feminism, and radical feminism. This discussion will focus exclusively on radical feminism, as it appears most analogous to current VOCA distribution practices at the national level. The underlying assumption of radical feminism is that men currently (and historically) have dominated women through patriarchy. To radical feminists this patriarchy has been expressed through male control of the female body and oppressive family structures to such a degree that the subjugation of women is now accepted and institutionalized in our society (Ness & Iadicola, 1989). The consequence of this male domination, according to radical feminists, is that women are the most oppressed group in society (Harding, 1981). Men have always benefited from this inequality of power; hence women can obtain power through reclaiming these social goods. Radical feminism promotes elevating the consciousness of women and eliminating patriarchy. Women-centered rights, like freedom of sexuality (and protection from abusive partners and sexually-based crimes), are central to the mission of radical feminists. A summary of the differing theoretical frameworks of liberalism and radical feminism can be seen in Table 1.
With regard to the distribution of VOCA funds, there appear to be two differing models currently operating within the United States. The first model is a liberal or Rawlsian approach, highlighted by the Maryland study, where agencies identify the most needy victim and compensate them accordingly. The other model is based on radical feminism, highlighted by the national study, where VOCA funding is directed towards women and gender-specific types of crimes.
As stated above, official statistics4 indicate that at the national level, victims of violent crime are disproportionately poor, young, African American, and male. In Newmark and colleagues' (2003) national study of victim compensation programs, administrators affirmed that racial or ethnic minorities were more prone to having unmet needs. Here, liberals would argue that at the national level, victim compensation should be directed towards the most needy.
Radical feminism places greater weight on women as victims of violent crime rather than consideration of the most needy victim. To radical feminists, men and women have very different human natures. Women are perceived as being closer to nature and more spiritual, loving, and caring, whereas men are perceived as competitive, individualistic, and pragmatic (Ness & Iadicola, 1989). Violent crime represents a continuance of men expressing their nature and dominance over women, and society as a whole is viewed as condoning such violence. To radical feminists, this becomes particularly salient in two key areas, interpersonal relations and sexual violence. In terms of interpersonal relations, over 33% of all female murders are caused by an intimate partner compared to 4% of total male murders (Rennison, 2003). This pattern extends to nonlethal violence, where women experienced over 900,000 incidents of violence from an intimate partner in 1998 alone (Rennison & Welchans, 2000). In terms of sexual violence, between 1992 and 2000, approximately 94% or 131,950 individuals who reported being rape or sexual assault victims were female, compared to 6% or 9,040 individuals being male (Rennison, 2002).
To radical feminists, these startling figures highlight a continuation of male dominance and oppression. Though more overt in personal relationships, radical feminists also argue that the subjugation of women permeates all social institutions. Therefore, social institutions (including VOCA victim compensation boards) must be challenged through organized and cohesive groups. A radical feminist framework proposes that through effective organization, feminist groups and advocates may draw attention to crimes that tend to influence women more than men, an issue like intimate partner violence. A recent article on violence against women in the journal Criminology begins,
Unlike most areas of criminological research, the study of violence against women is deeply informed by feminist theory and grounded in the practical concerns of the women's and victims' movements. Feminist scholarship and practice have resulted in many social developments including increased awareness and attitudinal changes, greater availability of services, changes in the laws related to the policing and prosecution of domestic violence, and federal legislation to promote increased research on the topic of women's violence. Although neglected by mainstream eriminoiogists for many decades, there are now more than three decades of research on the causes and consequences of violence against women. (Lauritsen & Schaum, 2004, p. 324)
Ironically, the next article in the journal states, "there are certain code words that allow you never to have to say 'race,' but everybody knows that's what you mean and "crime" is one of those. . ." (Chiricos, Welch, & Gertz, 2004, p. 359). This article goes on to discuss police practices and racism, a prime concern of African Americans, often discussed in academic literature and mass media. While criminological articles have focused on deeply ingrained institutional racism and the perception of African Americans as offenders, they simultaneously contain a gender-based focus on the perception of women as victims.
Sarnoff (1996) argues that in our current political environment, fund distributors respond to the most vocal, organized groups first. In a 1991 report to Congress, the Office for Victims of Crime stated that it gave "priority consideration to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and those previously underserved" (OVC, 1999, p. 49). In fact, the Office of Victim Compensation mandates that each state spend at least 10% of their VOCA funds on domestic violence, and acknowledges that states usually exceed four times this amount (OVC, 1999). This does not include the funds and specialized services women obtain via the Violence Against Women Act, which in 1994 alone totaled $26 million (Sarnoff, 1996, p. 65).
Using a Rawlsian framework, this method of fund distribution neglects those most in need and is unjust. To Rawls, "justice is the primary virtue of social institutions, that it must take strict precedence over efficiency, human perfection, and other goods at which a society may aim" (Miller & Keat, 1974, p. 6). While grassroots political organization is to be commended and historical oppression remedied, to liberals, it should not be at the expense of those most in need. If radical feminists have fashioned a system that is biased to the needs of women first, then liberalism would counter that female victims are rewarded solely on the basis of gender, which is unjust.
In fact, a valid argument against the radical feminist framework suggests that it may be the perceived risk of victimization that currently guides policy. As Ferraro (1996) states, "men are more likely then women to be victims of all types of crime except sexual assault (rape); yet, despite the gender differences in the prevalence of various crime victimizations, women are more afraid of all types of crime" (p. 667). Ferraro posits that the genesis of such fear is the potential risk of sexual assault that women face. Regardless, fear of crime is very different from actual crime, and while women are found in the former group, young, African American males are found in the latter.
VICTIM COMPENSATION: A QUESTION OF NEED
The two aforementioned models are based on different notions of justice. The first, liberalism, is a distributive or needs-based form of justice, while the second, radical feminism, is a gender-specific or desert-based form of justice. These important differences are summarized in Table 2.
Needs-based justice has been discussed throughout this paper and is relatively straightforward in its application. The neediest victims would be identified and they would receive a greater portion of the compensation funds. Generally, these are young, African American males, yet one could certainly extend this framework to specific groups that experience chronic rates of victimization, like prisoners. Currently, VOCA rejects victim compensation for prisoners. Rawls argued that the needs of the disadvantaged could be met through distributing social goods through just institutions (Rawls, 1971). Rawls identified this type of justice as forward looking, as it is aimed at improving the well-being of the most disadvantaged in the foreseeable future. At this future date, society is enhanced because the minimum social stratum has been maximized as much as possible. Desert-based justice takes a different approach. Desert-based justice emphasizes the recipient's abilities, efforts, or accomplishments when distributing social goods (Sullivan & Tifft, 2001). It argues that one's work activity and contribution to the social product should be rewarded. When a desert-based framework becomes institutionalized, the system rewards those individuals and groups who display more social status, income, and power. In the case of compensation, a desert-based argument may state that women's advocacy has secured more of the social good for women and therefore victims of domestic violence are entitled to more compensation then say, the families of homicide victims.
Rawls (1993) explicitly rejected the principle of desert in a just society, describing it as morally arbitrary. To Rawls, desert is backward looking, and involves nothing more then the accumulation of prestige and power, and this is insufficient grounds to demand social goods (Miller & Keat, 1974). In A Theory of Justice, Rawls (1971) states, "it seems to be one of the fixed points of our considered judgments that no one deserves his place in the distribution of native endowments, any more than one deserves one's initial starting place in society" (p. 104). Furthermore, to Rawls, just institutions should discount any considerations of desert when providing compensation. Wilson (2003) adds that systems guided by the desert principal frequently view the poor, mentally ill, or addicted as lacking valued attributes, such as sound judgment. As such, "to award them resources is to violate the merit principle" (Wilson, p. 279). It is important to note that Rawls does not completely ignore the principle of desert; instead he perceives desert as being the product or reward of the just institution to the individual rather than the process of rational decisionmaking (Moriarty, 2002).
Feminists (and many others) criticize this treatment of desert because "by focusing on the least-advantaged social position, Rawls's theory is insufficiently sensitive to the fate of all those social positions above the least well-off (Mapel, 1989, p. 99). It is not fair to people who have obtained an elevated social status and now have no reward, or stated differently, it is reasonable to expect that people further down the social ladder deserve less reward (Miller, 2003). If women's groups have established political power, then the desert becomes compensation directed towards women first.
Rawls argues that desert is frequently the result of happenstance; that is, it is obtained through birth or luck. Victim compensation under a desert model would first reward individuals who possessed social characteristics such as being older, being White, or being female. Victim gender would be the raison d'etre, rather than victim need. To be fair, in a Rawlsian system, a great many women would still receive compensation, though it would be because their injuries left them physically, emotionally, and economically needy.
In summary, if radical feminism is the model for VOCA, then it is women who are deserving of compensation. Desert places weighted value on external factors like gender rather than issues of need. On the other hand, if VOCA funding were distributed through a Rawlsian framework, then some women would not receive benefits, as the young, African American male victims reflected in national statistics would be deemed more needy. The inconsistency in the state and federal distribution of VOCA funds appears to be based on two different theoretical frameworks, liberalism and radical feminism. Although both of these models have been presented in this article, it is important to note that restitutive justice is by definition a form of needs-based justice. Therefore, we suggest that in developing a clear model for victim compensation, a liberal approach that focuses on the most needy appears more apt than current national-level practices.
1. These programs include Aid the Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), Disability (DBL), Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), Emergency Assistance (EA), Food Stamps (FS), Hill-Burton Uncompensated Services, Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), Home Relief (HR), Income Tax Deductions (ITD), Medicaid (MD), Medicare (ME), Old Age and Survivors' Insurance (OASI), Railroad Retirement Act (RR), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Unemployment Insurance (UI), Veterans Benefits (VB), Worker Compensation (WC).
2. Responding to domestic abuse is the most cost-intensive service because victims are provided housing, food, medical care, and child care.
3. The two principal methods used to measure violent crime and identify victims of violent crime are the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
4. "Official statistics" includes the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data.
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Hayden P. Smith, MS
University of Central Florida, Orlando
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