Leahy Commemorates Crime Victims’ Rights Week
Judiciary Chairman Urges Commitment To Crime Victims, Pushes Legislative Efforts To Protect Children, Students From Crime
WASHINGTON (Wednesday, April 16, 2008) – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) this week commemorated the 27th annual Crime Victims’ Rights Week by urging the Senate to take action on key legislative measures to protect children, students and victims of crime across the country.
In floor statements and hearings this week, Leahy – a former prosecutor -- renewed his support for pushing back efforts by the Bush administration to drain all the reserves from the Crime Victims Fund, the key source of support in helping crime victims. Established by the Victims of Crime Act passed in 1984, the Fund is supported by criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties and special assessments. The Bush administration has proposed rescinding the balance of the Fund at the end of this fiscal year. Leahy – long the leader in Congress in defending the Crime Victims Fund -- has forged a bipartisan coalition of senators to once again beat back the administration’s proposal.
“We cannot reverse the senseless violence seen one year ago at Virginia Tech,” said Leahy, “but we can honor the victims, and support the families and survivors. We need to renew our national commitment to crime victims, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is an opportunity to think of victims’ suffering and victims’ needs. The Senate can help by recognizing the importance of the Crime Victims Fund.”
On Wednesday, Leahy queried Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jim Nussle about the administration’s proposals to eliminate the Crime Victims Fund. Nussle dismissed Leahy’s call to preserve the more than $2 billion Fund to assist victims of crime. Nussle instead suggested that the Department of Justice’s proposed catch-all fund to support domestic criminal justice activities would cover the costs of the services supported by the Crime Victims Fund. Leahy countered that the administration has proposed less than $800 million – far less than currently budgeted – to fund the wide range of crime-fighting initiatives, including programs to assist crime victims.
Also on Wednesday, in a statement for a Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs hearing, Leahy renewed his calls for the Senate to consider and pass key pieces of legislation to protect children from crime. The Judiciary Committee last year passed the reauthorization for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the KIDS Act, and the Internet Safety and Education Act, but anonymous holds have stalled several of these bills.
Tuesday, in a statement on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the tragic events at Virginia Tech that left 32 students and teachers dead and several others injured, Leahy also urged the Senate to pass the School Safety and Law Enforcement Improvement Act, which was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee eight months ago. The comprehensive legislation would authorize Federal assistance for programs to improve safety and security in schools and universities.
Since 1981, the country has celebrated Crime Victims’ Rights Week with vigils and rallies in Vermont and across the country to observe and renew long-standing commitments to crime victims and their families. Leahy, who also is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, led 26 senators earlier this month in asking the Appropriations panel to oppose the administration’s proposal to empty the Crime Victims Fund. Leahy also co-authored the 2004 Justice for All Act, which established enforceable rights for crime victims in the Federal criminal justice system, and authorized grants to help States implement and enforce state and local victims rights’ laws.
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