FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 19, 2001
Next week, April 22 to 28, crime victims, service providers, criminal justice and allied professionals, and community volunteers will join across America to commemorate the 21st anniversary of National Crime Victims' Rights Week. To date, 30,000 laws have been passed at the federal, state and local levels that protect victims' rights and increase crime victim services, including constitutional amendments in 32 states.
State Victims' Rights passed the Texas Legislature in 1989. Today, 10,000 organizations exist in the Texas justice system and communities throughout the state that provide help and hope to victims of crime.
In the Texas Senate, Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, continues to introduce and support legislation that aims to contribute to crime prevention, offender accountability, improved services and support for people hurt by crime.
"Since I joined the Senate in 1987, I have introduced legislation directed at building safer communities and reshaping our criminal justice system so that it better protects victims' rights and responds more compassionately to their needs," said Sen. Zaffirini.
Over the last two weeks, legislation introduced by Senator Zaffirini and passed by the Senate includes:
- House Bill 519, by Rep. Pete Gallego ( companion to Senate Bill 169, by Sen. Zaffirini, allowing victims of family violence or sexual assault to receive relocation and rental assistance for the Crime Victim's Compensation Fund.
- Senate Bill 47, amending the Texas Human Resources Code to allow state funding for certain nonresidential family violence centers to reach a wider population of people in need of domestic violence services, particularly those victims living in rural areas.
- Senate Bill 1202 increases the current Crime Victims' Compensation Fund cap from $50,000 to $75,000 for victims who are permanently disabled as a result of a crime.
HB 519 amends current law so that sexual assault victims are included in categories for eligible victims to receive Crime Victim's Compensation Fund assistance. Prior to HB 519, these victims were not eligible for compensation of relocation expenses unless they are assaulted by a household member, yet one in three women and one in seven men in Texas will be assaulted sexually during their lifetime with 50 percent of the sexual assaults occurring in the victim's home.
HB 519 allows victims to receive a one-time assistance payment of $2,000 for relocation expenses and $1,800 for housing rental expenses.
In addition to expanding funding for nonresidential family violence centers, SB 47 requires the Texas Department of Human Services to develop and maintain a state plan for the delivery of family violence services to those in need.
"The need for residential services has grown rapidly; in FY 2000, the Texas Department of Human Services funded family violence shelter services for approximately 12,000 adults," Sen. Zaffirini said. "That year they also provided nonresidential services for nearly 33,000 adults, almost three times as many people. Funding nonresidential programs will expand the availability of services and allow community-based services to be designed to fit the needs of specific populations, which is vital to reaching rural areas."
SB 1202 increases compensation to crime victims who experience catastrophic personal injury and are permanently disabled. The National Rehabilitation Information Center estimates as many as 50 percent of patients who are long-term residents of hospitals and specialized rehabilitation centers are there due to crime-related injuries. Additional estimates indicate that at least 6 million serious injuries, resulting in either temporary or permanent disability, occur nationwide each year due to crime.
"Since 1993 the National Crime Victims Fund has generated more than $2.2. billion with more than 90 percent of those funds then being distributed to states. We have a commitment in Texas to use those funds wisely and introduce programs and legislation that work and that deliver needed resources to crime victims," Sen. Zaffirini said.