Most street crime victims never receive criminal court-ordered restitution for one obvious reason: The offenders are not caught and convicted. For a parallel reason, most victims never collect court- ordered civil judgments: The perpetrators cannot be identified or located and then successfully sued. Furthermore, rarely can a third party be held partly responsible for the incident and sued for gross neg- ligence. Given the inadequacy of most private insurance coverage when major disasters strike, the only remaining hope for monetary recovery lies with a different sort of third party: a state com- pensation fund. Reimbursement from a govern- ment fund appears to be the only realistic method for routinely restoring individuals to the financial condition they were in before the crime occurred. The shortcomings of restitution were dramatized by this classic case:

A middle-aged man is blinded by assailants, who are later caught, convicted, and imprisoned. Upon their release, they are ordered by the court to pay restitu- tion to the injured man for the loss of his eyesight. Under the arrangement, it will take 442 years for the man to collect the full amount due him. (Fry, 1957)

The following situation, which unfolded in the mid-1960s when mothers generally did not work unless their family relied on their earnings, under- scored the need for government programs to fur- nish assistance to innocent people who suffered devastating losses. Editorials about this tragedy gen- erated public support that led elected officials to set up a state-funded compensation program:

An onlooker comes to the aid of two elderly women who are being harassed by a drunken youth on a subway train. As his wife and child watch in horror, the Good Samaritan is stabbed to death by the drunk. The killer is captured and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison. The widow is forced to send her child to live with her mother while she goes to work in order to pay her bills. (Editors, New York Times, 1965)

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The next case, which describes a settlement from a state-run fund, illustrates the kinds of aid that these government boards now provide:

A gunman barges into a building and goes on a shooting rampage. Eleven immigrants taking a course to learn English, their teacher, and a case- worker are shot to death before the killer takes his own life. The crime victims fund sets up a toll-free number, provides on-site assistance, distributes emergency awards of up to $2,500 to the families of the deceased, and pays for medical and funeral expenses as well as compensation for lost wages and counseling services. (Stanford, 2011)

Compensation is the easiest, simplest, and most direct way of speeding a victim’s recovery and of institutionalizing the notion of helping someone in desperate need of emergency financial support.

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