Past board member details flaws with Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Board
Arkansas lawmakers are considering changes to improve the Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Board. On Monday, members of the Joint Performance Review Committee heard testimony from victims of violent crime.
Jajuan Archer, a domestic violence survivor, testified about challenges victims face when trying to seek help from the board.
In 2020, Archer was appointed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to become a board member. She served about a year, then decided to create Women’s Own Worth, a nonprofit organization to help victims of violent crime. She cited frustrations with staff members and a few of her fellow board members as her reason for leaving the board. After stepping down, she sent Hutchinson a letter detailing what she felt were problems with the board.
When asked by Rep. Megan Godfrey, D-Springdale, about changes that could be made to improve the board, Archer said there needs to be a clear line between what the staff’s role is and what board members’ roles are. When she was on the board, Archer said it was the staff’s role to provide information to board members, but oftentimes the staff withheld information or gave summaries of the information.
“The many pages were too hard to get to the board. If there were two pages, then one page would be a synopsis from the staff. These synopsis are created by the staff and many times survivors are not helped because the staff has deemed that they [survivors] are part of the reason something happened to them,” Archer said.
She explained this type of “victim blaming” can lead to survivors getting a lower award in court.
After looking at funding for mental services for the board, Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould and chairman of the committee, asked Archer if there was enough funding for mental health resources.
The board allocates $2,500 for mental health service for each survivor, but Archer said it needs to be $3,500 per survivor. She said a few years ago there were plans by the board to present a bill to legislators to raise the amount to $3,500 but it was never advanced. She added even though the amount wasn’t raised, survivors were told they would get $3,500 as recently as two years ago.
“These people [survivors] often go to get care and it cuts off at $2,500 and they’re hanging in limbo because they thought they had that $3,500 point they had to stop at. They’ve already used their own insurance if Reparations is paying it all, so at that point therapy gets cut off for their family and they’re not getting care anymore,” Archer said.
To implement changes to the board, the committee will have to wait until next year's regular session of the Arkansas Legislature.