Bill Includes Expansion of Crime Victim Compensation, Creating Crime Victim Counselors, Growing Hospital-Based Violence Intervention, New Tool to Help MPD Fight Stalking and Harassment
Today at 1 pm, the DC Council’s Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety will vote on Councilmember Charles Allen’s bill, the “Expanding Supports for Crime Victims Amendment Act of 2022.” The comprehensive omnibus bill strengthens services for victims and survivors of crime in the District.
The mark-up vote will be streamed on Councilmember Allen’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CMcharlesallen
Among its provisions, the bill creates a new crime victim counselor to support victims of certain serious crimes, similar to the role of existing domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault counselors. It significantly strengthens the District’s hospital-based violence intervention programs (HVIPs),and expands eligibility for the Crime Victims Compensation Program by adding new offenses eligible for compensation.
The bill would also create a new substantive offense for someone violating a stay away order, allowing the Metropolitan Police Department to intervene faster in instances where an offender has put a victim at immediate risk.
“This bill recognizes people need support, safety, and healing in the aftermath of being victimized. But the criminal justice system today doesn't necessarily deliver this kind of holistic, public health-based approach to meeting their needs,” said Councilmember Allen. “This bill addresses the mental and emotional health of victims, further protecting them from harm, strengthening victim privacy, and providing compensation for what they've endured.”
Here is a more detailed breakdown of key elements in the bill:
Expands victims’ eligibility to receive compensation through the Crime Victims Compensation Program
- The DC Superior Court’s Crime Victims Compensation Program helps victims and their families financially recover after certain crimes by paying for medical and counseling expenses, housing, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages.
- The bill expands the number of offenses for which victims and their families can apply, including for elder abuse and destruction of property by intimate partners or due to gunshots, following recommendations from the Crime Victims Compensation Advisory Commission.
- The bill also expands the expenses covered to include the costs of out-patient mental health counseling, and raises the maximum compensation available for families with children.
- Lastly, the bill eases the burden on victims by establishing a more flexible application process.
Hands-On Support for Victims and Protecting their Privacy
- Creates a new crime victim counselor to help guide victims through their legal options, health care, counseling, and in a time of crisis
- Formalizes the role of hospital-based violence intervention programs (“HVIPs) and their staff already operating in regional hospitals
- Protects confidential communications between victims and crime victim counselors or hospital-based violence intervention program members to provide victims of crime with trusted advocates
- Expands confidentiality between victims and existing counselor roles, including domestic violence human trafficking, and sexual assault counselors.
- Expands the District’s Address Confidentiality Program, so that participants who are also government employees don’t have their personal information disclosed. The Address Confidentiality Program provides a substitute address in public records for residents who may fear for their safety, shielding their real address from being disclosed.
Expands Services of the District’s Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Program (HVIP)
- HVIPs serve primarily victims of serious crimes who come to the emergency room with gunshot or stabbing wounds. They respond quickly to potential escalation, establish trust and credibility, connect victims to resources and opportunities in their communities, and victims’ confidential communication with them is protected
- In addition to formalizing HVIPs in law, the legislation establishes the right of HVIP members to be present in medical exams and interviews with police with the consent of victims.
- Establishes a two-year pilot program to develop evidence-based policies, protocols, and training for hospital staff, medical providers, and law enforcement to guide their interactions when operating as part of a hospital-based violence intervention program. The Committee identified $500,000 for this pilot in the FY23 budget.
- Creates a long-term task force comprised of representatives from District agencies, area hospitals, and District residents to analyze outcomes for patients served by hospital-based violence intervention programs and propose policies that should be adopted by hospitals or District agencies to improve patient outcomes.
Creates a New Crime when a Stay Away Order is Violated to Give MPD the Ability to Intervene Faster
- In order to ensure MPD has the tools available to intervene immediately if someone is violating a stay away order and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office can prosecute, the bill creates a new crime for violating a post-conviction stay-away or no-contact order
Additionally, the bill will also:
- Close a loophole in the District’s criminal law to ensure any sexual conduct by law enforcement officers with arrestees or detainees is clearly criminalized;
- Prohibit the execution of arrest warrants on sexual assault victims and victims of serious violent injuries while they’re seeking emergency medical treatment or medical forensic care; and
- Create a private right of action for injunctive relief for sexual assault victims when their rights under District law are violated, as there currently is no enforcement mechanism.
“This bill represents a commitment to victims of crime that they aren’t alone in the aftermath of trauma. It includes many of the requests of providers on the ground working with victims, like the Network for Victim Recovery of D.C., the D.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and MedStar Washington Hospital Center,” said Councilmember Allen. “I talk regularly with victims and survivors of crime. Too often, the programs that exist leave victims in need. Today's legislation puts victims front and center."
By also intervening with victims quickly and engaging them in healthy ways to process trauma and move forward, we can also break cycles of violence that plague our neighborhoods.”
The bill was co-introduced with Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Brooke Pinto, Robert White, Christina Henderson, Elissa Silverman, Kenyan McDuffie, Brianne Nadeau, Anita Bonds, Janeese Lewis George, and Chairman Phil Mendelson. It will most likely receive a first vote at the legislative meeting on October 4.
Contact: Erik Salmi | [email protected]
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