April 27, 2006 – While almost everyone has heard that crime doesn't pay, did you know that every convicted felon is assessed $100 for each count in their conviction? According to U.S. Attorney Anthony Jenkins, in a news release issued Wednesday, that's exactly the case.
That money — called a special assessment — is collected from convicted felons and, along with monies from bond forfeitures and fines, goes into the Crime Victims Fund to help pay for programs to help crime victims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Carroll said Thursday there are no figures for what percentage of convicted felons make the required payments.
Carroll said the agency in 2005 collected $132,785 in the territory from special assessments, fines, restitution, and bail forfeitures, which went into the Crime Victims Fund.
The money is pooled with that from all states and territories. For fiscal year 2006, the territory received $634,387 for victim assistance and $88,000 for victim compensation. This money is the territory's share of the $539 million distributed throughout the United States for these purposes.
"We get back from the Crime Victims Fund more than we actually put in," Carroll said.
Carroll said the territory can spend the Crime Victims Fund money over a four-year period.
The program is administered by the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Victims of Crime.
Money from the Crime Victims Fund goes to organizations like St. John's Safety Zone, The Family Resource Center and Kidscope Inc. on St. Thomas, as well as Casa of the Virgin Islands and the Women's Coalition on St. Croix.
Additionally, the Police Department, the Human Services Department, Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, and Legal Services of the Virgin Islands receive funds.
"And also individual victims," Carroll said, noting that this money is administered through the local Human Services Department's Criminal Victims Compensation Commission.
Carroll said relatives of homicide victims can also collect.
Iris Kern, director of the Safety Zone, said that funding organizations like the Safety Zone completes the circle.
"The criminal defendant in that way gives money back to the victim and helps the victim be made whole," Kern said in a news release
Jenkins said that the agency's Financial Litigation Unit also collects civil debts for the U.S. government. They included defaulted student loans and Small Business Administration and Rural Development loan foreclosures. In 2005, it collected $3.7 million in the territory.
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