Action Item: Write/call your state legislators and the members of the Joint Committee of the Judiciary to support H742: An Act Amending Victim Compensation Statute.
As many of you know, Chris and I marched in the Walk for Peace on Mother’s Day. The walk benefits the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. The Institute is a center for healing, teaching and learning for families and communities impacted by murder, trauma, grief and loss. They work to create and sustain an environment where all families can live in peace and all people are valued. They strive to ensure that all survivors of violent crime are treated with dignity and respect.
Why Support H742?
Paying for the burial costs of a murdered loved one is often a huge expense for the grieving family. Some families require financial assistance to lay their loved one to rest. These families apply for Victim Compensation in the hope that they will be reimbursed.
Often these families are re-traumatized when they do not receive compensation because of a requirement that compensation be reduced or denied if the murder victim “contributed to” her/his own death.
The Institute believes it is a human right to lay your loved one to rest with respect and dignity regardless of the circumstances of death. The proposed legislation gives the Attorney General the option of compensating families for modest burial services. Also note that this change does not cost tax payers anything. The money in the fund comes from restitution, bail, etc. Read more about this legislation here.
On a more personal level – my reasons for supporting this bill.
I believe that it will take everyone – every man, woman and child, every white person, black person, every person of every color, gender, religion – to get our country moving forward again; striving to become what has always been nothing more than a dream: a great nation, with room for everyone, where everyone has equal rights under the law, where everyone is free to pursue their dreams. A country where no one wakes up in the morning thinking ‘there are people that wish I didn’t exist’. A place where parents don’t have to worry that they cannot protect their children – from the powers that be, or from those that are just physically more powerful.
A part of this bill addresses social justice and inequality. The burden of seeking compensation to pay for funeral expenses for a loved one killed violently falls disproportionately on people of color. We all need to take responsibility to change this. We are not equal until we are all treated equally. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We often talk about the last three – life, liberty and happiness – but what about equality? Equality is the basis upon which the rest is built. We think we have to choose between equality and freedom, but, according to Danielle Allen,
“Such a choice is dangerous. If we abandon equality, we lose the single bond that makes us a community, that makes us a people with the capacity to be free collectively and individually in the first place. I for one cannot bear to see the ideal of equality pass away before it has reached its full maturity. I hope I am not alone.” – Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality
Supporting this bill is a very small step forward. I hope you will join me on this journey.
Joint Committee on The Judiciary
William.Brownsberger@masenate.gov, Sonia.Chang-Diaz@masenate.gov, Cynthia.Creem@masenate.gov, Patricia.Jehlen@masenate.gov, John.Keenan@masenate.gov, Richard.Ross@masenate.gov, Claire.Cronin@mahouse.gov, James.Cantwell@mahouse.gov, Colleen.Garry@mahouse.gov, Carole.Fiola@mahouse.gov, Randy.Hunt@mahouse.gov, Michael.Day@mahouse.gov, Rady.Mom@mahouse.gov, Paul.Tucker@mahouse.gov, Bud.Williams@mahouse.gov, Sheila.Harrington@mahouse.gov, James.Lyons@mahouse.gov
Dear Senator Brownsberger, Senator Chang-Diaz,Representative Cronin, and Representative Cantwell:
I am writing today to ask you to support H.742 “An Act Amending Victim Compensation” so that families of murder victims cannot be denied reimbursement for modest funeral and burial costs in their time of greatest need. All families deserve to lay their loved one to rest with respect and dignity so that they, and the community, can begin the healing process.
The compensation does not use taxpayer dollars. The money comes from restitution, revoked bail, and fees and fines collected from criminals. When families are denied compensation, they are penalized for the actions of their loved ones. A funeral and burial is a single step on the road to healing.
Please support H.742. Thank you.