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New rules for violence victims’ fund: who’ll get the most of it? Joint statement of HFHR and ALI

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and the Association for Legal Intervention have sent a statement to the Minister of Justice, expressing concerns over proposed changes to the way in which the Fund for Victims and Post-Penitentiary Support works.

Fund to pay for law enforcement operations

Changes to the Fund’s functioning are forced by an amendment to the Courts Act, which adds new possibilities for the expenditure of the Fund’s monies. In accordance with the new wording of the provisions of the Criminal Enforcement Code that have been changed by the amendment, monies collected by the Fund can be spent on purposes such as training courses for criminal justice bodies and their personnel, purchase of means of transport, equipment or construction projects. These changes are reportedly triggered by a surge of the Fund’s revenues, which started in mid-2016.

“The HFHR and ALI fear that such an extensive inflation of the Fund’s objectives can lead to the marginalisation of its present core functions. It should be noted that both pillars of the Fund’s operation – provision of assistance for released inmates and victims of crime – are extremely important for the society”, the statement reads.

65 zlotys for returning to life outside prison walls

The organisations emphasise that in the years 2012-2016 spendings on assistance for released inmates were extremely low. Although in 2016 the Fund collected PLN 328 million, only PLN 15.9 million was spent on post-penitentiary aid. Given the number of inmates released during that period, the statistical ex-convict received about PLN 65, an amount likely insufficient to pay for a ticket home. In this situation, some of the released inmates have been choosing the sad alternative of re-offending.

Support for victims of crime

The organisations underscore that another crucial aspect of the Fund’s work is the provision of support for persons who are victimised by crime. This support is currently provided through social organisations for whom the Fund is the main source of financing. “In recent years, the Fund denied requests for financing from some of the organisations with a long track record of working for crime victims, including victims of domestic violence. Considering the high value of the Fund’s current holdings, as well as the low number of the state-sponsored initiatives for women and children who seek to escape from domestic violence, a significant portion of the Fund’s monies should be spent on the co-financing of such initiatives”, the statement reads.

Funds’ spendings: budgetary road map needed, now

The statement summarises the NGOs position: “That is why, in the opinion of our organisations, the Ministry of Justice should once again consider the changes to the way of Fund’s functioning and increase the financing of schemes design to assist released prisoners and victims of crime, instead spending the Fund’s monies for policing purposes.” The HFHR and ALI also wrote in the statement that the effectiveness of the Fund’s actions can be improved by the adoption of a detailed and widely consulted plan of financing key activities in the areas of post-penitentiary aid and victim support.

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