A bill that would compensate the three Cleveland kidnapping victims who were held for more than eight years by Ariel Castro passed a House committee yesterday despite opposition from a trio of GOP members.
The bill would provide Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight $25,000 per year for a time period equal to the time they were held by Castro, who was recently found dead, hanging in his prison cell.
“I don’t know how you ever make up for the time they’ve lost in their lives,” said Rep. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, who sponsored the bill with Rep. John Barnes, D-Cleveland.
The bill also would allow the women to submit annual health-care expenses to the state and require the governor to determine how much is needed to pay for future expenses.
It would require Cleveland State University to provide five years of no-cost instruction to the women and help them with remedial instruction.
Rep. Matt Lynch, R-Chagrin Falls, said the sponsors have good intentions and the bill “more than most pulls on the heartstrings,” but Ohio already has a fund to assist victims of crime — about 3,600 claims were paid an average of $2,714 each in 2012. The bill, he said, would provide 100 times that amount in total compensation to Castro’s victims.
“I don’t know how to evaluate one victim versus another. They’re all deserving of our support,” Lynch said. “It strikes me as somehow improper to single out particular victims.”
Grossman said she’s not aware of any situation in the country that compares to the Castro kidnappings.
“They will need assistance, one way or another, for most of their lives,” she said. “We can be proactive in trying to provide the means and tools to proceed in their lives or we can look for entitlements. I’d rather give them the tools to succeed.”
Lynch said he donated to the Cleveland Courage Fund that has raised more than $1.2 million for the three women, but he worries that the bill could send a message that people don’t have to give because government will step in.
“We’re not giving our own money. We’re giving taxpayers’ money,” he said. “In that sense, it’s not charity.”
By Jim Siegel - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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