There comes a point in a disposition when the judge asks the prosecutor whether or not the victims will be seeking restitution.
Oh. The irony.
The prosecutor gently spoke these words, “Your Honor, because the victims and perpetrator share the same parents, it would not be in the best interest of anyone involved for the court to award restitution damages.” And with those words, we were saddled with 100% of the financial responsibility for both the therapy needs of our victims and the punitive/incarceration costs of our perpetrator.
I was somehow under the misguided understanding that our taxes pay for the incarceration costs of delinquent juveniles. Our society, as a whole, recognizes the need to prosecute and incarcerate those members who pose a threat to others and that must not be based on the criminals ability to pay for their room and board. This is why a portion of our taxes goes to offset the cost of criminal justice. I assumed, as a law-abiding-tax-paying-citizen-in-good-standing, that my son’s incarceration was paid for by those tax dollars.
The first blow to this assumption was the bill for Asher’s psycho-social and psycho-sexual evaluations. They were court ordered and necessary for the disposition, but they required a private provider who would not release the evaluation until it was paid in full. The report cost us over $1200. It was used in determining Asher’s probable response to different forms of rehabilitation and whether or not incarceration was a necessary component.
The second blow was the bill for $4500 from the detention facility where Asher sat for 3 months between the time we turned him over to the police and the disposition. Our state contracts with private businesses who run secure detention facilities for juveniles and adults who are awaiting trial or disposition. These possible criminals have enough risk factors associated with their charges that the court does not believe them essentially safe, or trustworthy enough, to allow them to await the next step in their legal process while on the “outside.” Asher was a perfect example of why these detention facilities exist. While we could be trusted to bring Asher back to court for all his necessary appointments, he certainly could not remain in our home. We have no extended family in the area. There was some concern that Asher may need close monitoring for suicidal behaviors once the gravity of his situation became more clear to him. And finally, Asher was showing a disturbing lack of empathy towards his victims. The overall consensus was that he needed a wake-up call early in the process.
The third blow was the legal document we received 2 weeks after the disposition was final. It stated that the court determined we were responsible for a monthly portion of Asher’s care for the duration of his sentence. And although $300 a month is certainly not covering the full cost of his care, it is no less jarring for us to suddenly be financially bound to our son’s horrible choices.
The fourth blow was the cost of our survivors’ therapeutic care. At the police station that first day, we were given two options for locations where we could undergo the necessary forensic interviews of Asher, Georgia, Olivia, and Nathan. No one bothered to explain the pros and cons of selecting a specific provider. It wasn’t until we finished the interviews at our selected location that we learned we were now unable to receive free trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) because of the conflict of interest posed by their provision of the forensic interviews. It doesn’t take long to realize that three primary victims and four secondary victims all in need of varying degrees of counseling for PTSD and associated trauma is going to cost. A lot. For example, an average week that allows all of us to be seen a single time by both our TF-CBT provider and our neurofeedback (NF) provider costs $1230.
The fifth blow is that nearly all the programs associated with helping offset this necessary cost are designed for families below the poverty level. That means that unless you can’t pay for your life without already needing government aid, you are not eligible to receive it now. Don’t even get me started on the broken system that keeps me from receiving the aid I responsibly help provide by my faithful payment of taxes because I do not live below the poverty level.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? … And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
-Matthew 6:25a, 26, 28-30, 33-34
I love that so many scriptures share this important phrase as the turning point between the understanding of man and the infinite reality of our Savior. He truly does lavish us with himself. On paper, we simply cannot afford the help we require to keep our son in a program that is working to rehabilitate him and keep the rest of us in counseling. But our God knows all our needs.
We were given information on an invaluable aid called Crime Victim’s Compensation Program. Each state has one that is run through private donations and grants. It provides financial assistance to the victims of crime regardless of a court’s pronouncement of guilt. It only requires a valid police report and investigation citing the crime and probable victimization as a result of the alleged crime. There are some drawbacks. For instance, the state where Drake lives refuses to allow their CVCP benefits to go towards any court-ordered rehabilitation regardless of whether that rehabilitation need can be shown as a direct link to the original crime. This means that we cannot seek aid from the state where Asher’s inciting abuse occurred to help offset the cost of his subsequent criminal actions. Even when he completes his incarceration program the mandated sexual offense reintegration therapy he will be required to undergo during probation is off-limits from their CVCP benefits. So, we remind ourselves that tomorrow will be anxious for itself and we don’t worry about it.
But today is being taken care of by God. The CVCP of our current state provides benefits for the mental health care of sexual assault victims and the secondary victims within the immediate family of any sexual assault victim. That means that, for now, that $1230 is being paid for through generous donations and grants from people who understand that being the victim of a crime doesn’t necessarily make you wealthy enough to be able to pay for the help you need to heal.
And when those benefits are gone, we will trust that another but God moment will open itself to us. Until then, we cry out to God and believe Psalm 127:2.