The Victims Who Don’t Count

The Marshall Project

By Alysia Santo

After his father was murdered in Sarasota, Florida, in 2015, Anthony "Amp" Campbell was in shock. Not only had he lost his role model and supporter, he also worried about coming up with $10,000 to pay for the funeral and burial.

Campbell, an Alabama State University football coach, emptied most of his savings but still could not cover the whole cost. Sarasota police urged him to apply to Florida’s crime victim compensation fund for help. Every state has such a fund to reimburse people for the financial wallop that can come with being a victim.

The answer was no. His father, Johnnie Campbell, had been convicted of burglary in 1983 after a late-night break-in attempt at a local business, and Florida law is clear: people with certain types of felonies in their past cannot receive victim's aid. It did not matter that the elder Campbell had changed in 30 years—the Sarasota City Commission called him a “prominent citizen” a month after his death—or that his son had never committed a crime.

Florida is one of seven states that bar people with a criminal record from receiving victim compensation. The laws are meant to keep limited funds from going to people who are deemed undeserving. But the rules have had a broader effect: an analysis of records in two of those states—Florida and Ohio—shows that the bans fall hardest on black victims and their families, like the Campbells.

“Nobody came and questioned or asked. It was just, ‘no,’” said Campbell, 43, who lives in Montgomery, Alabama. “I just felt like they turned their backs on us.”

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