The following guest opinion piece was submitted by the Directors of Las Familias and The Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault on behalf of Casa de los Niños, Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, Homicide Survivors, Las Familias, MADD Arizona, Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center, and Wingspan in response to the Arizona State Legislators who may raid funds earmarked for victim’s of crime.
Balancing the state budget on the back of crime victims may not be criminal, but it should be. Unfortunately, that is exactly what our current legislators are doing. In an effort to balance the broken state budget, our elected officials are taking pots of money that don’t rightfully belong to them. Most recently, they have taken the funds that support crime victims. These funds are set up to assist victims of crime recover from the physical, emotional, financial and psychological injuries that they endure, due to no fault of their own, when they are victimized by criminals.
The revenues in the fund come from fines and fees collected from convicted criminals. Thus, they are not taxpayer monies and the legislators have no business raiding these funds. While we understand the need to balance the budget, it shouldn’t come on the backs of crime victims. Re-victimizing people who have already been significantly traumatized is simply wrong.
The legislature has already swept a significant part of these funds to help offset this year’s deficit and they are planning to take even more for next fiscal year. If we don’t make them stop, then thousands of crime victims will go without support and services they need to help them through one of the most traumatic events anyone can face.
Supporting crime victims is neither a liberal nor a conservative agenda. It is simply the fair and just thing to do. For those who claim the government should have no role, we remind them that the Crime Victims Fund was established under President Reagan’s Task Force on Victims of Crime, which led to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). President Reagan understood that when innocent people are victimized, society has an obligation to help them on their road to recovery.
The organizations in jeopardy of losing funding, if the legislature has its way; include Casa de los Niños, Emerge! Center Against Domestic Abuse, Homicide Survivors, Las Familias, MADD Arizona, Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center, and Wingspan. The leaders of these organizations and programs that provide critical services to crime victims urge you to call and write your state legislators. The legislature must hear that what they are doing to crime victims is morally and ethically wrong and borders on criminal. If we don’t speak up now for those who have been victimized through no fault of their own, we will have no right to complain when there is no one to help us if, God forbid, this injustice befalls us.
Dr. Elizabeth Wong, Division Director, Las Familias
Michele Roland-Schwartz, Division Director, Southern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault