For Immediate Release: January 25, 2021
Office of The Attorney General
– Gurbir S. Grewal, Attorney General
For Further Information:
TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced the appointment of a longtime public servant and victim advocate, Mary Ellen Bonsper, as the Director of the Victims of Crime Compensation Office.
Bonsper has served as Acting Director of the Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) since March 2020. She joined VCCO as an investigator in 1986. Prior to being appointed Acting Director last year, Bonsper served for 10 years as VCCO’s Chief of Investigators.
“Victims of crime deserve justice, respect, and resources that enable them to return to their daily lives,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “There is no one more qualified than Mary Ellen to assist some of the most vulnerable among us. I know that these people, who are often unheard, will have a critical ally in Mary Ellen in her new role as Director of the Victims of Crime Compensation Office.”
“Mary Ellen has spent her entire career in public service, assisting victims in New Jersey whose lives have been torn apart by crime,” said Attorney General Grewal. “She knows victims need more than financial compensation to heal— they need to be treated with fairness, compassion and respect. Mary Ellen has a victim-centered vision for the Victims of Crime Compensation Office and is using her decades of experience to make top-to-bottom improvements in the agency.”
Under the leadership of Mary Ellen Bonsper, VCCO has made a number of important changes, including significantly reducing the time it takes to process claims; striving for more personal contact with claimants in providing assistance; and increasing training for VCCO staff members to enhance their ability to support victims and manage their own vicarious trauma.
“I’m honored that Attorney General Grewal has appointed me to lead the Victims of Crime Compensation Office and advance the vital mission of serving crime victims throughout New Jersey,” said Bonsper. “VCCO has been my professional home throughout my career, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve as its Director. We’re committed to collaborating with all of those who serve crime victims in our communities, both to raise awareness about VCCO’s financial services and also to do our part to create an integrated network of support for victims so that they receive all of the services they need to recover.”
“I applaud the appointment of Mary Ellen Bonsper to the position of Executive Director of the VCCO,” said Richard D. Pompelio, Esq., founder of the New Jersey Crime Victims’ Law Center. “Through her knowledge, experience, and excellent management skills, Mary Ellen has been pivotal in transforming this agency into an effective victim-centered office that respects every crime victim’s constitutional right to be treated with fairness, compassion, and respect.”
Created by statute in 1971 and located within the Department of Law & Public Safety since 2008, VCCO provides compensation to victims of violent crime for expenses they incur as a result of the crime. VCCO is responsible for processing these claims and administering payments to victims pursuant to the Criminal Injury Compensation Act of 1971. VCCO is a payer of last resort, available to victims after they have exhausted other resources, including State benefits and insurance, and covers a variety of expenses, including hospital and medical expenses, up to $20,000 of mental health counseling, and up to $600 per week in lost earnings.
Recent statutory changes to VCCO’s eligibility matrix and compensation structure have expanded its scope of services— homicide victims’ families are permitted greater access to VCCO financial assistance through a broadened definition of eligible “victim,” and the list of offenses for which victims may apply for assistance has increased as well. In addition, the eligibility period to apply for VCCO assistance has increased to five years from the crime date, or five years after the victim’s 18th birthday.
For more information consult the full statute at www.nj.gov/oag/njvictims/law.html.
Bonsper has served victims in New Jersey for 35 years, joining VCCO in 1986 as an Investigator, becoming a Supervisor of Investigators in 1997, and serving as Chief of Investigators from 2010 until March 2020, when she was appointed Acting Director of VCCO. Bonsper received the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Innovation in June 2014, and she received the Attorney General’s Lifetime Service Award in June 2019. She graduated with a B.S. from Saint Peters College.