Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that the Department of Justice would spend more than $3.4 billion to compensate victims of crime, the largest single-year grant in 34 years.
The funds will cover expenses associated with victimization by crime, like medical fees, lost income, and funerary costs. More than 95 percent of the money will come from the Crime Victims Fund, which is funded entirely by federal criminal fines, fees, and special assessments—not taxpayer dollars. $129 million of the grant will be specifically to reimburse victims, while the rest will be allocated to various victim-support organizations.
There were some 5.7 million crime victimizations in 2016, according to a federally administered and nationally representative survey. That makes for about 21 victimizations per 1,000 people in the population, including about 13 in every 1,000 who faced some kind of violent victimization.
"I've been in or around law enforcement for nearly 40 years and some of the strongest and most inspiring people I have met have been survivors of crime," said Sessions. "We must ensure that this Department is always responsive to their needs and working for them. Today the Department continues its support by offering billions of dollars in services for crime victims. Through this grant funding from the Crime Victims Fund, we are helping victims walk the long and difficult road to recovery."
The funds will be allocated to state governments under the terms of the Victims of Crime Act Victim Assistance Formula Grant Program, where they will in turn be allocated to support local-government and community programs. VOCA grants supported 6,700 organizations in 2017, and have reached more than five million crime victims in the past two years, DOJ said.
Sessions also took advantage of his speech to criticize advocates for reducing prison sentences. These comments were especially significant after President Donald Trump's meeting last Thursday with several prominent Republican Senators who would like to see sentencing reform added to the White-House backed prison reform bill currently stalled in the upper chamber.
"There are still those who would have you believe we should release the criminals early, shorten sentences for serious federal traffickers, and go soft on crime," Sessions said. "That would be bad for the rule of law, it would be bad for public safety, and it would be bad for the communities across America, like Chicago, that these criminals ravage with their violence."