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Thursday, October 17, 2013 - 6:04pm
(CNN) -- A bill that would compensate Ariel Castro's three kidnapping victims up to $25,000 for each year they were held captive, plus other benefits, has cleared a committee in the Ohio House of Representatives.
The bill is named the "Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus Survivors of Abduction Act," after the women who survived years of captivity at the hands of Castro, but its provisions would apply to any person who survives such an ordeal.
The law would award up to $25,000 per year from the Ohio Court of Claims' crime victims fund to any survivor of abduction who was held for eight years or more; offer free tuition at any state university or college; and seek to provide the survivor with lifetime medical care through a waiver from the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
The bill now goes for a vote in the full state House, and if approved would go on to the Ohio Senate.
If the bill passes, the Castro's victims could receive $225,000 to $275,000 each, based on their years of captivity, minus whatever other victim assistance they receive, according to the bill.
"We wanted to make sure we attempt to restore what these women would have received as citizens," the bill's sponsor, Democratic Rep. John Barnes, said Thursday, "They didn't have the chance to go to school, go to the doctor. ... They have been treated worse than prisoners of war."
Barnes added that it is important for the public to remember that this bill isn't just for these women, but all victims like them. He said the bill has bipartisan support, and he has faith the bill will pass when it is called for vote on the House floor sometime in the next couple weeks.
Knight, DeJesus and Berry were in their teens or early 20s when Castro abducted them and enslaved them in his Cleveland home for a decade until their dramatic escape and rescue in May.
He had pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.
The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of Knight, abducted in 2002; DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Berry; abducted in 2003.
Castro is the father of Berry's 6-year-old girl, DNA tests confirmed.
At his trial, Knight read a statement to Castro,
"You took 11 years of my life away," she said. "I spent 11 years in hell. Now, your hell is just beginning."
Castro, 53, was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years but was found hanged in his jail cell last month with his pants and underwear pulled down to his ankles. The coroner has ruled it a suicide.