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Twenty Years Later: A National Study of Victim Compensation Programs

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Examining trends, challenges, and successes within victim compensation programs
  • Client
    National Institute of Justice
  • Dates
    2022 - 2024


There is little current information on state victim compensation programs since a major study in 2003.

State victim compensation programs across the U.S. provide financial assistance to victims of crime to cover expenses associated with the financial, physical, and psychological burden of victimization. In 2018, these programs paid over $400 million to support victims and their families. Given the prevalence of victimization and the high costs associated with crime, state victim compensation programs are essential in helping meet the needs of victims in general, and specifically in racially marginalized, low-income communities. In 2003, the Urban Institute published National Evaluation of State Victims of Crime Act Assistance and Compensation Programs: Trends and Strategies for the Future, an NIJ-funded report on state victim compensation and assistance programs. Since then, little research has examined how different victim compensation program structures, models, funding streams, and policies influence how programs operate and distribute compensation.


NORC is partnering on a new follow-up study to look at state victim compensation programs’ structures, operations, challenges, and successes.

NORC and the Urban Institute are now partnering on a new NIJ-funded study to update the findings from the 2003 report. Our study seeks to answer five research questions:

  1. How are victim compensation programs structured, operated, funded, and utilized today?
  2. What key barriers and challenges do victim compensation programs face today?
  3. How do victim compensation program directors, funders, service providers, and claimants measure “effectiveness” and “success”?
  4. What are the characteristics, experiences, and perspectives of individual claimants who request victim compensation?
  5. Looking at the next 20 years of victim compensation, what do program directors and stakeholders perceive as most critical to improving and/or sustaining the performance of victim compensation programs?

To answer these questions, NORC and Urban will survey victim compensation program administrators in each state and partner with four states for a deep-dive assessment of their programs. In each of the four deep-dive states, we will interview victim compensation program stakeholders, collect victim compensation data, and survey individuals who have filed for victim compensation.


Findings from this study will provide updated information on state crime victim compensation programs.

Findings from this study will provide updated information on the effectiveness, utilization, and comprehensiveness of state crime victim compensation programs in meeting victims’ needs, including the strengths, barriers, and challenges of policies and funding models, and best practices for the field. It will also offer critical information on equity in compensation distribution, emerging and underserved crime types, impacts of COVID-19, and other emerging issues. It is our hope that through this national effort, state and federal stakeholders can obtain the critical information required to address compensation program challenges and support successful program models over the next 20 years, thus strengthening national and state service responses to victims and better meeting victim needs.

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