Baltimore armed robber Deandra Gaskins was wounded in a drive-by shooting. When thousands of dollars in hospital bills came in, he turned to the state for help and got it, reports the Baltimore Sun. The Maryland Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund, created 40 years ago to assist victims of crime, paid more than $42,000. Nearly $1.8 million from the fund has been awarded to drug dealers, violent offenders, and other criminals since 2003, found a Sun analysis of records obtained through the Maryland Public Information Act.
In Florida, Ohio, and at least six other states, felons are restricted or banned from getting aid from victim compensation funds. Maryland’s approach is more forgiving. “If someone with an extensive criminal background who has changed their life and is moving on and they happened to be the innocent victim of a crime, why shouldn’t that person be compensated?” said Sandy Roberts, chairman of the board that administers the fund. Presented with The Sun’s findings, some members of the board, which is appointed by the governor, said state law needed to be reviewed. “The whole intention is to help people who are the innocent victims of crime or their families,” said John Derr, a former state senator who serves on the board. If funds are going to violent criminals, he said, “I think we’ve got to take a serious look at that. And there is a problem.”