Compensation policy for crime victims needs fixed

Some Ohioans victimized by crime can be compensated by a state program set up for the purpose. Most don’t receive much; the average last year was $2,369.

But some who probably ought to get help do not receive a dime, because of rules by which the program is guided.

One of them was a 17-year-old developmentally disabled girl who was kidnapped, drugged and raped last year, according to a published report. Her sister managed to rescue her and take her to a hospital. There, “rape kit” testing was conducted.

Her mother attempted to obtain some compensation from the victims’ fund, but was turned down — because tests at the hospital had disclosed the girl had drugs in her system at the time of the crime.

Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office, which administers the fund, turned the girl down for compensation because she had admitted taking an illegal drug, cocaine. Her mother’s insistence that the girl was forced to take the drug apparently made no difference.

Other situations in which crime victims were denied compensation because of the program’s rules were uncovered by a Dayton newspaper. It found a 70-year-old woman assaulted by a juvenile who broke into her home — but initially denied help from the state because she did not file the proper paperwork. After filing an appeal, she was granted $408.

It is not that the program is strapped for cash. It ended last year with $17.3 million, having paid out just $6.8 million to crime victims. It had other expenses, however — $5.9 million in administrative costs.

Almost by definition, a program that spends nearly as much operating itself as it hands out to crime victims needs to be looked at by Ohio legislators. Rules are needed, of course. Not everyone who applies for compensation should receive it.

But the regulations should have at least enough flexibility that help is not denied to elderly women who fail to send in the proper forms, or developmentally disabled girls forced to take illegal drugs. In other words, a little common sense ought to be exercised.

That seems to go against the grain of many in the bureaucracy. And no, common sense cannot be legislated. But there surely must be a way to do a better job in helping Buckeye State crime victims.