To: Members of the California Assembly Public Safety Committee
From: All of Us or None; Global Women’s Strike, Legal Action for Women; Legal Services for Prisoners with Children; US PROStitutes Collective; Women of Color Global Women’s Strike
Supported by: Alexandria House; Anti-Racist Action; Bay Area Sex Worker Advocacy Network; Erotic Service Providers Union; Hunger Action Los Angeles; Martin Luther King Coalition of Greater Los Angeles; LA Laborfest; Sin Barras; St James Infirmary
Date: April 27, 2015
Re: Proposed Amendments to Assembly Bill 1140 on Victims Compensation
In 2014 US PROStitutes Collective along with other sex worker organizations, and support across the state, won the removal of discriminatory regulation 649.56 from the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP). This regulation excluded victims of rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence who were presumed to be sex workers from receiving compensation as victims of crime. We raised other concerns some of which are addressed by Assembly Bill 1140 (Bonta). If AB 1140 is passed, victims charged or convicted of a misdemeanor or non-violent felony (such as prostitution or drug possession) would no longer be denied compensation for any violent crime against them, and the discriminatory prioritizing of victims without felonies over those with felonies would be abolished.
However, further changes are needed. We urge you to consider the following:
- Proposed language in AB 1140 allows the “conduct” of a victim to be taken into account when assessing their right to compensation. This would impact victims of domestic violence, sex workers and other criminalized groups who are targeted by law enforcement, especially people of color. A victim’s conduct should not be used to deny them compensation.
- The proposed bill would require victims of domestic violence to repay compensation funds for relocation if they allow their abuser to move back in or know where they now live. This provision should be removed. People change, and if a woman feels safe enough to allow someone who formerly abused her to move back in, she should be allowed to do so. Also, if a man obtains her new address information from another source or through intimidation, the person surviving domestic violence should not be further punished by requiring repayment of VCB funds.
- Formerly-incarcerated victims of crime who are on probation or parole for violent felonies would still be ineligible for compensation until the end of their probation or parole. The needs of any victim of crime are greatest immediately after the trauma occurs. They should be able to get help right away. Compensation for treatments for trauma would support their reentry into the community.
- Under proposed language in AB 1140, victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and trafficking are not required to cooperate with law enforcement in order to apply for compensation. The bill allows other evidence to be used to establish they were victims of violence. But lack of timely cooperation with the police leads to a denial of compensation for all other victims of violence. The requirement that other victims of violence cooperate with police to verify a crime should be abolished.
- Victims of violent crimes who are incarcerated or who are required to register as a sex offender are still not eligible. This discrimination should be abolished.
- Compensation Program funds should come from the state, not from prisoners paying restitution. Most prisoners have no money; what little they have comes from prison slave wages and/or from what their (mostly low-income) families send them. When they come out of jail many have a retribution debt which they have no means to pay and is a further obstacle to their reentry into the community.
Winning justice and compensation are official recognition crucial to recovery. Peer counseling services are often effective for helping to heal trauma, and independent rape crisis centers provide an important low-cost community service that deserves commensurate financial support.