Reparations program quietly helping victims of crime

Thursday, December 1, 2005

BERRYVILLE -- It's a little-known function of the county prosecutor's office, but Carroll County's Victim-Witness Coordinator Robin Arnold is well aware of the impact of crime on the health and well-being of victims.

In a report for the month of October from the Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Board, Carroll County ranks 12th among the state's 75 counties for the amount of money paid to crime victims. Four new awards were made to victims during the month, along with two support awards, with a total payout of $11,432.64.

With the 2000 census showing Carroll County to be 17th in population, that figure might seem a little high. Arnold, however, says the month of October is pretty typical for the county.

Reparations are paid from one-twelfth of the funds the state receives from fines, court costs and fees imposed on convicted criminals in the various criminal courts in the state. Money paid to crime victims are approved and disbursed by the board.

Court-ordered victim restitution, primarily ordered in cases involving property but also in cases involving physical injury, are normally disbursed directly to victims through the local circuit clerk's office.

Arnold stated that the money is paid directly to providers of health and psychiatric services, and can include reconstructive surgery, prescription drugs, long-term therapy and lost wages.

She said that in the Carroll County area, most employers are very cooperative, with only one victim losing a job, and that being because she reported to work later than she was told she could. "She was outside the scope," Arnold said.

Any victim of a crime can apply for reparations by contacting Arnold, she said. The paperwork to get the process going will not take long, but awarding of reparations may take several weeks to a few months.

The October payments, Arnold said, include payments to victims of crimes who applied in June, July and August.

A victim does not even have to know who the perpetrator is, though information collected by Arnold is used by law enforcement to investigate the crime.

Arnold stated that one victim was assaulted by an unknown assailant and was severely beaten, requiring reconstructive facial surgery. The victim did qualify for Medicare, but the reparations board paid the difference for her health care and long-term counseling, even though the case is still open and the perpetrator has not been determined.

In murder cases, reparations can be made to pay for funeral expenses as well.

There is no deadline on when reparations stop, and decisions are based on the individual's situation.

As to why Carroll County seems to run high for its population, Arnold admits she hadn't thought about it.

A lot of the crimes against persons involve methamphetamine, and Carroll County has a longer history of meth-related crimes than found in most areas of the state.

"We seem to be getting more heinous, violent crimes,"

Arnold said, and surgeries for victims are becoming more common.

Many victims result from sexual assault, domestic violence and child sexual abuse," Arnold said, and a lot of those cases do involve methamphetamine.

Arnold noted that some area health service providers are not aware of the victim reparations process, such as opticians, dentists and pharmacists, but if providers can be patient, the money will be paid.

When a perpetrator goes through the legal system, Arnold also serves as a liaison between the prosecutor's office and the victims.

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