Law will grant victims
of crime more benefits

Up to $20,000 will be available
for those wounded by criminals

By Treena Shapiro

Crime victims will be eligible for up to $20,000 to cover medical expenses, lost wages and counseling under a new law that takes effect Monday.

Since 1967, Hawaii's Crime Victim Compensation Commission has been able to provide a maximum of $10,000 to victims, one of the lowest caps in the nation.

Usually that's enough, said commission Administrator Pamela Ferguson-Brey. The average compensation is less than $2,000, she said. However, sometimes $10,000 has not been enough to cover medical expenses, which can be financially devastating.

In one case, a woman had been shot and was in constant pain, but because she had no health insurance the $10,000 was used up for hospital bills and there was none left over for rehabilitative services, Ferguson-Brey said.

Doubling the cap "makes sure that people aren't financially devastated by the crime because they have serious medical expenses," she said.

Also beginning Monday, the compensation will be funded entirely by fees and restitution reimbursement from state and federal offenders, not taxpayer dollars, Ferguson-Brey said.

"Many victims find solace that while they may not have found justice, what we're giving them is from offenders," she said.

Dennis Dunn, director for Victim Witness Kokua Services in the Prosecutor's Office, said the compensation fund gives victims the feeling that a representative of the government cares about what they've gone through, which can be as important as the monetary benefit.

Often the victims feel that they never really have a chance to tell their stories until they go through the crime victim compensation process, Dunn said.

And that feeling gets compounded if no one is ever arrested for the crime, Dunn said.

Through the compensation process, "people get some sort of recognition that something terrible has happened and something should be done."

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