Colorado Springs Independent: It’s 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and a small group of people have gathered in a conference room of the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
They’re here to decide if victims of violent crimes will receive funds to get help like counseling, or dental work to fix teeth damaged in an assault, or chiropractic care, or family counseling sessions in child abuse cases, or compensation for lost wages linked to the crime.
The board members, who were appointed by District Attorney Dan May, have clearly done their homework. Dentist Richard Carter and psychotherapist Janet Kerr (a third board member, physician Scott Ross, was absent) have arrived at the Sept. 12 meeting having studied more than 200 claims that form a 6-inch stack of applications now before them, awaiting a decision.
As Carter notes, “What this does is give you a clue that the world is not all happy people.”
One victim seeks grief counseling following a homicide. Another asks for lost wages. One by one, Carter and Kerr say “no” or (mostly) “yes” to the claims, which will give the victims a portion of the roughly $15 million dispensed annually across the state to crime victims. According to state reports from 2012 to 2016, the most recent available that’s broken down by district, the 4th Judicial District’s fund paid out roughly $6.1 million for 3,660 claims.
State law requires payment and victim information to be kept confidential, meaning there’s no official accounting of how, specifically, those millions are spent. Funding comes from fees assessed in criminal cases: $163 in felony cases, $78 in misdemeanor cases, $46 for class 1 misdemeanor traffic offenses, and $33 for a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses.
The board meeting is public, as board members weigh in on each request without identifying victims or the crimes at issue. This reporter was thus watching the meeting while following along on (and jotting down notes on) an agenda, when, in a startling move, Deputy District Attorney Donna Billek snatched an agenda out of my hands.
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