Seven states bar people with a criminal record from getting victim compensation. An analysis of records in two of those states—Florida and Ohio—shows that the bans fall hardest on black victims and their families.
Seven states bar people with a criminal record from getting victim compensation. The laws are meant to keep limited funds from going to people who are deemed undeserving, but an analysis of records in two of those states—Florida and Ohio—shows that the bans fall hardest on black victims and their families. reports a collaboration among Reveal, The Marshall Project and USA Today. The funds do not set out to discriminate; they follow state law on who can receive compensation. Critics call the imbalance a consequence of a criminal justice system that is not race-blind. Multiple studies show that black people serve harsher sentences than white people for the same crimes and are more often charged with drug offenses, even though they use and sell drugs at about the same rates as white. “People with money and power are treated differently in our justice system. They’re not policed the same way,” said David Singleton of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.
In Florida, the ban applies to anyone who has been convicted as an adult of one of many felonies, including burglary and aggravated assault. About 30 percent of people who listed their race when applying for victim compensation in 2015 and 2016 were black. Black applicants made up 61 percent of people denied aid for having a criminal record. The racial disparity was similar in Ohio, which denies compensation to people convicted of a felony in the past 10 years or simply suspected of certain felonies, even if they were never found guilty or committed the crime as a juvenile. In Ohio, 42 percent of victims who applied for reimbursement in 2016 and listed their race were black. But 61 percent of people turned down for having a record were black.