WASHINGTON, June 18 -
Mr. Speaker, every day throughout the United States, criminals commit crimes against good people. Some of those cases make the news. The news usually spends a lot of time talking about the defendant. There is a trial, justice occurs, and the world moves on.
But many times, unfortunately, in our culture, there is a victim in that crime. And the victim after the trial is just ignored in some cases. Some of those victims are sexual assault victims. Back in the day when I spent 30 years at the courthouse in Houston as a prosecutor and a judge, I saw a lot of them. In fact, I keep up with some of them today. The crime affects them a lot of ways. Some of them lose their jobs. Some of them are hurt physically and emotionally, and they don't have any money.
And this is not a new concept. Years ago under the Reagan administration, Congress recognized this problem, this issue about the fact that many victims, after the crime and after the trial, they just disappear into lives of quiet desperation, and culture and community doesn't keep up with those people. So during the Reagan administration, Congress decided here's what we're going to do: We're going to make criminals who are convicted in Federal court pay into a fund, and that fund is used to help crime victims. What a great concept--make criminals pay the rent on the courthouse. Make them literally pay for their crime by putting money into a fund that goes to crime victims. And that's the Victims of Crime Act that passed--VOCA as it is called.
And the Federal judges, God bless them, they are nailing those criminals. They are taking a lot of their money away from them and putting in about $2 billion a year into that fund. Today, we have a situation where the fund is over $11 billion, money criminals paid to help crime victims.
But here's the problem: that money isn't going to crime victims. Crime victims only get about $700 million a year out of that fund of $11 billion, with $2 billion coming in every year. And then the government gets an 8 percent cut, that makes it even less. And there's a cap, and government sets the cap on that money. Remember, this is not taxpayer money. It doesn't belong to anybody except to the victims of crime. That money is used and offset for other purposes. It goes to other programs in commerce, science and justice--probably good programs.
And now with sequestration, we hear that that fund may be completely cut off this year for crime victims because of some squirrelly math somebody's using saying sequestration should apply to the crime victims' fund. That's nonsense.
Meanwhile, throughout the country, victims organizations, shelters, groups like CASA, who represent kids in the courtroom when their parents are not doing the right thing by their kids, and many programs are barely keeping the lights on because they don't get enough money from VOCA even though money is available and it's just sitting there, or being offset for other programs.
So what needs to happen is this: one, raise the cap every year. Two billion dollars is coming in every year. We ought to at least allow the victims to have a billion of that, maybe $2 billion of it because it keeps coming in.
And more importantly, what we ought to do is take that money and put it in a lockbox concept. It's a very simple concept; that the criminals pay into the fund, and the funds should go only to crime victims and crime victims' programs. It shouldn't go to other programs in the Federal Government, even if they're good programs, because it was designed by Congress, approved by the administration, to go to those silent, quiet victims who are still, today, hurting because of crimes that are being committed against them. And it just seems nonsense to me.
We have the money available. It's not taxpayer money. We can help victims of crime get their lives back together, and it's not happening because somebody else wants crime victims' money. So let's put this in a lockbox.
Mr. Costa from California and I have sponsored legislation to say, look, it's not the government's money. It's victims' money, and it ought to all be spent to help victims and victims' programs throughout the country, groups that are doing a great job to help rescue crime victims because of crimes that have occurred against them in the past.
That is justice. And, Mr. Speaker, justice is what we do in this country.
And that's just the way it is.