Crime Victim Compensation Policies Leave Too Many Behind

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 In the fall of 2009, Oakland resident Ruben Leal got shot but it’s only now that he’s able to talk about it. One bullet entered the left side of his chest, leading to a collapsed lung. The other shattered his right shinbone. Leal was 21 and he describes his situation then and now as, “just me on my own.” He felt the weight of the physical rehabilitation and mental recovery that lay ahead but staring him down, too, was more than $100,000 in medical bills.

So after a three-week hospital stay, a caseworker helped Leal to apply for victim compensation from California’s Victim Compensation Board (CalVCP). Like its sister agencies in other states, CalVCP is a last resort fund. State victim compensation boards typically provide limited financial assistance to victims of violent crime or their family members when no other funding sources are available or options like private insurance or civil lawsuits have been exhausted. Other eligibility considerations determining, who is and isn’t a “proper” victim, also apply. Those requirements, advocates in California and other states say, disproportionately hurt victims and survivors living in communities already battered by high crime, mass incarceration and one-size-fits-all aggressive policing.

CalVCP rejected Leal’s application for, he says, not cooperating with police. At the time of the shooting Leal had been named to Oakland’s controversial gang injunction list and was being investigated. Read more here.