Lawmaker Opposes State Funds for Cleveland Kidnap Victims
(CLEVELAND) -- The three women kidnapped by Ariel Castro and imprisoned in his house for more than a decade will receive about $900,000 in compensation for the time they were held captive if a bill is passed by Ohio state lawmakers.
Under to the proposed legislation, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight would get up to $25,000 for each year they spent in the confines of Castro's house of horrors. In total, the three women could receive between $225,000 and $275,000 each.
Earlier this week the bill passed a committee vote by the count of 14-3; it now moves on to a vote by the full Ohio House of Representative and, if it makes it past that hurdle, would move on to the state Senate for final passage.
However, the bill has encountered opposition from some Republican lawmakers who contend that it is unfair to other victims of similar crimes.
Rep. Matt Lynch, a Republican representing District 76 and member of the House Health and Aging Committee, told ABC News that Ohio already has a fund to compensate victims and last year those victims only received an average of $6,000 each, a far cry from what Berry, DeJesus and Knight would get if this bill passes.
"Each of these three victims would receive 100 times that amount – about a quarter of a million dollars each," Lynch said. "So we're effectively depleting the funds for other victims to give to these victims a total of around $900,000, plus free healthcare and free education."
"While I have tremendous sympathy for these three victims, I also have tremendous sympathy for all the other victims in the state of Ohio. I just think it's improper to single out these specific victims and reward them in this way," Lynch said.
"No amount of money can make these victims whole, but at the same time we are setting a number here – almost $900,000 – and I'm certain that there are rape and violent crime victims in Ohio that are receiving nowhere near that type of compensation," he added. "It just doesn't strike me as a proper judgment for us to make. And you have to worry that other victims – both past and future – will now have the expectation that their suffering is worth more than what they would otherwise receive."
Lynch also expressed concern that this new effort by the state to compensate Berry, DeJesus and Knight might dissuade people from donating to a separate fund set up in May to help the three women. The Cleveland Courage Fund has collected more than $1.4 million. Lynch said he has donated to that fund.
"I'm afraid that when the average citizens read in the paper that these women are getting nearly a million dollars from the state of Ohio, they're going to be discouraged from donating to the private fund," Lynch said. "So then in the long run we're actually going to reduce the amount of contributions that these victims might receive."
Despite his concerns, Lynch said he is resigned to this bill ultimately getting passed by Ohio lawmakers, simply out of fear of a backlash.
"The reason that so many people are lining up to support this bill is because they're afraid not to," he said. "I've had a number of people in the House tell me that they do not think this is a good idea, but nonetheless feel that they have to vote for it."
Berry, DeJesus and Knight were freed in May when Berry managed to escape through the front door of Castro's Cleveland house and call for help. Castro was sentenced in August to life plus 1,000 years in prison, but last month he took his own life, hanging himself with a bed sheet in his cell.
A report released by Ohio state investigators revealed numerous flaws in how Castro was monitored and, once he was found hanging, how he was transported to the hospital. According to the report, two guards – who were supposed to check on Castro every half hour – missed at least eight cell checks on the day he killed himself and falsified logs. The two guards have been placed on administrative leave.
Once Castro was found hanging in his cell, a bible and pictures of his family nearby, a full 34 minutes passed before an ambulance arrived and another 28 minutes went by before that ambulance arrived at the hospital.
In a statement released on behalf of the Castro family, attorney Craig Weintraub said the state of Ohio could have and should have done more to prevent Castro's suicide.
"Clearly, suicide prevention policies at correctional facilities lack purpose if the prison system affords an opportunity for falsification of log books for rounds," he said.
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