Public Compensation to Victims of Crime

Public Compensation to Victims of Crime

Public Compensation to Victims of Crime

Public Compensation to Victims of Crime

Excerpt

The granting of public funds to persons who have been victimized by a crime of violence and to persons who survive those killed by such crimes bears upon a large number of major issues of contemporary social and political life. For one thing, developments in this area provide insight into how the state comes to define its obligations to its citizens and into the rhetoric and the tactics that are chosen to justify or to oppose the extension of such obligations. For another, the story of crime victim compensation entwines with chronicles about political maneuvering, the diffusion of policies from one jurisdiction to another, fiscal priorities, the impact of documented results upon legislative behavior, and a host of other considerations lying at the core of political and social life.

Legislative opponents of victim compensation generally operate quietly -- it is not the best kind of politics for an elected official to be seen as antagonistic to the interests of innocent victims of violent crime -- but some legislators and academics on occasion will forcefully raise troublesome questions about why this particular group of citizens has been singled out for special favor, while those in other categories -- for some reason, persons struck by lightning seem to be the favorite examples -- go neglected. In this regard, the words of an English legal scholar, Rupert Cross, are sometimes offered as the most commonsense resolution of this issue:

I am content to do without theoretical justifications.... After all, these are questions of public welfare and they should be determined by public opinion. Human needs account for the most of the Welfare State, and its evolution has nothing to do with tortuous reasoning.... If there is a widely recognized hardship, and if that hardship can be cheaply remedied by state compensation, I

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