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Organizations, Businesses, and Officials Lend Support to Survivors

The Peace Institute submitted a coalition letter of support signed by over forty organizations, faith congregations, and local businesses to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of H.742 "An Act Amending Victim Compensation Statute."  We're extremely grateful so many share our belief that survivors of homicide victims deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion in their time of greatest need. We will continue pushing for this important change in our state law.

 

Re: H.742 “An Act Amending Victim Compensation Statute”

The Honorable William N. Brownsberger, Chair
The Honorable Claire Cronin, Chair
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
State House, Room 136
Boston, MA 02133

Dear Chairs Brownsberger and Cronin and Honorable Members of the Committee:

We, the undersigned organizations and agencies, urge the Joint Committee on the Judiciary to favorably report H.742 “An Act Amending Victim Compensation.”

We believe it is a human right to lay your loved one to rest with respect and dignity.

H.742 “An Act Amending Victim Compensation Statute” would ensure that families of murder victims will not be denied reimbursement for modest funeral and burial expenses because of the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death. This shift in the statute promotes fairness in the Victim Compensation disbursement process. Passing H.742 is a concrete and compassionate way to meet the needs of grieving families, and limit the impact of trauma on the surrounding community after a homicide happens.

For surviving family members of homicide victims, paying for their loved one’s final expenses can be a nearly insurmountable burden on top of incomparable grief. A proper funeral and burial is an essential step in any family’s healing journey after the tragic death of a loved one.

Families of murder victims can choose to apply for Victim Compensation distributed by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office in hopes they will be reimbursed for funeral and burial expenses. Too often, families are re-traumatized when their application is denied because the law requires claims to be reduced or denied to the extent that a murder victim’s “conduct provoked or contributed to” their own deaths.  Families’ financial stress is compounded by pain, shame, and anger when they don’t receive the assistance they so desperately need.

Victim Compensation funding comes primarily from restitution, revoked bail, and other fees and fines paid by people convicted of crimes. According to the Massachusetts Attorney General Office’s report to the Office of Justice Programs, 36 applicants were denied Victim Compensation due to the “contributory causes” clause from October 2015-October 2016, some of whom were not families of murder victims. Victim Compensation is a reimbursement fund of last resort. H.742 represents a minor yet impactful change in the statute that will not put an undue burden on taxpayers. 

We must all recognize that survivors of homicide victims are our clients, customers, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, and family members. It is a priority to us that they are treated with the compassion and dignity they deserve. In the wake of tragedies, we’ve seen the Commonwealth unite to support families who have lost loved ones to violence. We have the opportunity to do that more equitably and effectively by passing H.742 “An Act Amending Victim Compensation.”

Sincerely,

 

The Louis D. Brown Peace Institute
1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
Better Opportunities, Inc.
Black Economic Justice Institute
Boston Medical Center Community Violence Response Team
Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester
Center for Homicide Bereavement Cambridge Health Alliance
Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice
Citizens for Juvenile Justice
Coalition for Effective Public Safety
Councilor Andrea Campbell
Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley
Criminal Justice Policy Coalition
Dolan Funeral Services
Families for Justice as Healing
First Church Jamaica Plain
First Universalist Society in Franklin
George Lopes Funeral Home
Greater Boston Interfaith Organization
Haley House
Healing and Encouragement for Survivors of Homicide Victims Ministry
J.B. Johnson Funeral Home
Justice Resource Institute
Legacy Lives On
Mass General Hospital Violence Intervention Advocacy Program
MassINC
Massachusetts Communities Action Network
Massachusetts Survivors of Homicide Victims Network
Morning Star Baptist Church
My Brother's Keeper 617
Peace Seekers
Roxbury Presbyterian Church
Roxbury Youthworks Inc.
Showing up for Racial Justice Boston
Social Innovation Forum
South Shore Resource and Advocacy Center
South Shore Women in Action
The Children's Room: Bereavement Center for Grieving Children, Teens, and Adults
Union Capital Boston
Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network
VISION, Inc.
We are Better Together: The Warren Daniel Hairston Project