Lawmakers approve measure to protect victims of violent crime

Lawmakers approve measure to protect victims of violent crime

PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation Thursday allowing innocent victims of violent crimes to receive funds for relocation purposes. The measure now heads to the governor for final action.

Sponsored by Sen. Donna Nesselbush, a Democrat serving District 15 in Pawtucket and North Providence, and Rep. Anastasia Williams, a Democrat serving District 9 in Providence, on behalf of General Treasurer Gina Raimondo, the legislation calls for emergency compensation for relocation costs not to exceed $2,500 through the Crime Victim Compensation Program. Rhode Island general laws already allow emergency compensation for burials and crime scene cleanup costs.

The compensation program helps crime victims with costs associated with violent crimes, including medical expenses and loss of earnings of as much as $25,000. According to the general treasurer’s office, the state awarded 422 families with 1,300 payments totaling $1.9 million through the program in Fiscal Year 2012.

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s annual report states that in 2012, more than 3,000 people received a restraining order from Rhode Island family and district courts. More than 900 people were also charged with violating their restraining orders. Legislators hope that strengthening the Crime Victim Compensation Program will lead to a reduction of violence, domestic and otherwise, in Rhode Island.

Cosponsors of the Senate bill include Senators V. Susan Sosnowski, of District 37 in South Kingstown and New Shoreham, Elizabeth "Betty" Crowley, a Democrat serving District 16 in Central Falls and Pawtucket, Hanna Gallo, a Democrat serving District 27 in Cranston and West Warwick, and Gayle Goldin, a Democrat serving District 3 in Providence. Speaker of the House Gordon Fox, a Democrat serving District 4 in Providence) and Representatives Joy Hearn, of District 66 in Barrington and East Providence, Eileen Naughton a Democrat serving District 21 in Warwick, and Edith Ajello, a Democrat serving District 1 in Providence, are cosponsors of the House bill.