Chapter 5 Financial Assistance for Victims of Crime
This section provides a historical and legislative framework for the remedy of restitution in our criminal and juvenile justice systems today. The crucial importance of restitution as a remedy for crime victims is examined as are the multiple purposes served by successful management and collection of restitution. Also discussed are the roles played by virtually all criminal justice and juvenile justice agencies in the restitution process, and how the coordination and cooperation among such agencies affects overall success in any restitution program. Specific information concerning types of victim losses covered by restitution and the kinds of documentation required from victims is provided. Additional policies and procedures integral to sound restitution management are also discussed. Finally, promising practices in restitution programs around the country are highlighted.
Upon completion of this section, students will understand the following concepts:
Restitution is a fundamental right of crime victims. Its importance for victims with respect to financial as well as psychological recovery from the aftermath of crime cannot be overestimated. Unfortunately, in many jurisdictions, restitution can be one of the most difficult rights to enforce. Criminal and juvenile justice professionals, crime victims and victim service providers, and offenders and their advocates all share frustration about how restitution is ordered, collected, distributed, and monitored. While victims expect, very reasonably, that an order of restitution will be honored and collected upon, many justice system officials, adhering to the old saying, "you can't squeeze blood from a turnip," believe their program resources are better spent on other endeavors.
No single jurisdiction in the United States can claim to have a completely successful restitution program, if rates of collection, victim satisfaction, and interagency collaboration are to be considered measures of "success." This chapter, however, will show how many local and state agencies have developed innovative approaches to restitution that increase collections, collaboration, and victim satisfaction. Note: Portions of this chapter are excerpted from
"Victim Restitution" by Anne Seymour from Promising Practices and Strategies for Victim Services in Corrections, published in 1997 by the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Ancient civilizations sought to formalize the process of restitution as a means for compensating victims, settling disputes, and controlling escalation of retributive violence. The Code of Hammurabi (1700 B.C.), Mosaic Law (about 1688 B.C.), and Roman Law contained elaborate provisions regarding compensation for specific property and personal injury crimes. Restitution in these legal codes was designed to compensate the victim and establish a lasting settlement between the parties (Karmen 1990).
By 600 A.D., the Anglo-Saxons in England had developed an intricate code proscribing restitution for individual victims. By making restitution to the victim and paying an additional fine to the king, the offender was allowed to "buy back the peace" (Hudson and Gallaway 1981). As time went on, the state took on an increasingly greater responsibility for the prosecution of crimes that had previously been treated as private matters. By the Middle Ages, the state had assumed the role of victim in the majority of crimes, and a system of fines and forfeiture laws eventually superseded the role of victim restitution in criminal proceedings. Gradually, the practice of restitution declined.
In early America, crimes were considered acts against individuals, and citizens could "buy" the services of sheriffs, investigators, and prosecutors for the purpose of prosecuting crimes on their behalf (Karmen 1990). Eventually the clear advantages to and potential for misuse by wealthy plaintiffs contributed to the establishment of public prosecutors. A distinction was drawn between criminal and civil law: crimes were considered acts against the state; torts were civil violations against individuals and could be redressed only through the civil system. Restitution became less important as the state pursued punitive justice.
A resurgence of interest in restitution began in the U.S. in the 1930s with the establishment of penal laws permitting suspended sentences and probation. As the victims' rights movement has gained increasing momentum over the last three decades, restitution has once again been recognized as a critical tool for victims recovering from the financial and psychological impact of crime.
In this country, however, restitution operates within a criminal justice system in which the victim has, at best, occupied a secondary role. There is no formal recognition of the fact that the crime was committed against an individual who has suffered harm as a result. The criminal justice system is primarily designed to control crime through punishing the offender. The result for restitution is an "inherent tension that arises when efforts are made to use the criminal law, with its focus on vindication of society's interests in punishing offenders, to reimburse victims for the harm done them by specific offenders" (Harland and Rosen 1990).
SIGNIFICANT RESTITUTION LEGISLATION
Dissatisfaction with the justice system's management of restitution has risen dramatically over the last three decades. Alternatives to "business as usual" both within and without the criminal justice system have proliferated. Significant legislative reform efforts have contributed to a nationwide effort to strengthen victims' rights within the existing legal system.
In 1982, the President's Task Force on Victims of Crime recommended the routine imposition of restitution in criminal cases with a documented financial loss to victims. Passage of the 1982 Victim and Witness Protection Act, the first general federal victim restitution statute, required judges to order full restitution in a criminal case or state on the record their reasons for not doing so. The Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (Title V of the Crime Control Act of 1990) created, in effect, a Federal Crime Victims' Bill of Rights which, among other things, mandates that federal officials "make their best efforts" to see that victims of crime are accorded the right of restitution.
In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994) identified particular crimes subject to mandatory restitution. Departing from the previous trend to permit the court to have discretion in ordering restitution, the 1994 Crime Act states very clearly that convictions for four types of crimes must include mandatory restitution as part of an offender's punishment:
The Act also lists expenses for which victim restitution is required:
Most recently, the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (Title II of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996) requires federal judges to order full restitution from offenders who have been convicted or pled guilty to specific charges:
Crime Victims' Bills of Rights have been enacted in all states, approximately half of which provide for mandatory restitution unless compelling reasons to the contrary are stated on the record. More importantly, a total of thirty-one states have passed victims' rights constitutional amendments--at least ten of which provide for mandatory restitution. Since April 1996, the U.S. Congress has had before it several versions of a federal constitutional amendment for crime victims. The latest version, Senate Joint Resolution 3, was introduced by Senator Jon Kyl on January 19, 1999, and is currently pending before the 106th Congress. If enacted, the federal amendment would provide victims with a constitutional right to an order of full restitution from offenders.
Enforcement of restitution. To ensure enforcement of restitution orders, the Crime Act and 1995 Attorney General Guidelines specify that U.S. Attorneys must enforce the restitution order "by all available means."
The Crime Act provided several mechanisms to enforce restitution payments including the following:
Compliance with a restitution order was established as a condition of probation or supervised release. The AG Guidelines specify that compliance with restitution orders shall be followed. If an offender fails to comply, the court, upon a hearing, may revoke the probation or term of supervised release, modify the terms and conditions of probation or release, or hold the offender in contempt.
Finally, the Crime Act reinforced restitution payments by amending the federal Bankruptcy Code to prevent defendants who owe restitution from discharging their liability for payments by filing bankruptcy. The Act states that a debt for restitution included as a sentence, on the debtor's conviction of a crime, would not be discharged in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy filing. The Act also added a new provision in the Bankruptcy Code that addresses drunk driving debts, stating that such debts are not dischargeable under Chapter 7, 11, and 12 proceedings.
Again, the 1995 AG Guidelines underscored restitution rights by stating:
Federal prosecutors shall advocate fully the rights of victims, including child victims, on the issue of restitution.
There is no doubt that restitution is a strongly supported remedy for victims of crime. Victims and victim advocates embrace restitution as a means for the recovery of some measure of economic and psychological wholeness, and also for the satisfaction provided when a full order of restitution reflects the extent of financial losses suffered. Corrections officials often view restitution as an alternative sanction that can alleviate prison overcrowding and as a solution to insufficient funding. Prosecutors support its use as a remedy for victims and as an effective tool in plea bargaining or pre-trial diversion programs. Judges who support the imposition of restitution may value its potential as a rehabilitative tool for offenders and an economic benefit for victims and society. Restitution can also be an effective and nonpartisan means for legislators to support victims' rights.
The importance of restitution for victims is extremely diverse and depends entirely on the individual circumstances of their victimization. So many factors are important to an in-depth understanding of why this remedy is so crucial and why justice systems around the country should take every step possible to improve their restitution programs. Consider the following:
Just as restitution is many things to many different victims of crime, so too, it serves a multitude of purposes in other ways:
Furthermore, restitution is a strong measure of the effectiveness of America's criminal and juvenile justice systems. When citizens assess whether or not the justice systems are accomplishing their mission, restitution is an important evaluation criterion. As such, not only should offenders be accountable for victim restitution; our justice systems should be held equally accountable for the enforcement of restitution orders.
A number of barriers exist that directly influence a jurisdiction's ability to manage successful restitution programs:
In examining the obstacles or barriers that may be operating against optimal restitution management in a given jurisdiction, it is critical to understand that restitution, as a process, involves literally every agency within the criminal justice system and its successful collection depends upon every agency effectively doing its own job in a long line of interrelated tasks. Restitution involves the coordination of multiple tasks by numerous professionals in separate agencies and departments of the criminal justice system; it can be imposed at any stage from commission of the crime to the post-supervision period. Unless the successful management and collection of restitution is a jurisdictional priority, it is highly likely that at some point along the line, restitution will fall through the cracks.
Key parties to the process of restitution include victims, offenders, law enforcement officers, prosecutors and victim-witness personnel, defense counsel, the judiciary and other court personnel, probation officials, corrections officials, and parole boards. These parties, alone or in combination, must coordinate and accomplish the numerous tasks of criminal restitution, which consist mainly of the following:
In view of the multiple parties and tasks involved in the process of restitution, the establishment of restitution as a jurisdictional priority is absolutely critical to its successful implementation as a remedy for crime victims.
RESTITUTION AS A JURISDICTIONAL PRIORITY
While the practices and procedures of restitution management vary greatly according to jurisdiction, the tasks and participants involved are essentially universal. The overall administration and management of criminal restitution can be broken down into four general categories:
1. Screening of cases to determine eligibility for restitution.
2. Specific determination of the restitution amount and conditions of payment.
3. The restitution order, including imposition of available civil remedies.
4. Collection and disbursement of restitution and monitoring of offender.
Restitution may in fact be eliminated as a remedy for victims because of decisions reached by key individuals at any one or more of the stages described above. The fact that so many agencies are necessarily involved in the restitution process makes the need for consistent priority-setting critical and makes the potential for failure in the event of conflicting priorities very real.
Even agencies with clearly defined objectives for restitution can be undermined at any point by a failure on the part of another agency to support the process. A prosecutor may consistently present documented evidence of substantial victim losses in eligible cases, but without adequate support from the judiciary or determined efforts on behalf of the collecting agency (typically, probation), the restitution may never reach the victim. Similarly, a probation department may develop superb procedures for effective and long-term collection of restitution, but without specific orders based on accurate information about victims' losses, their ability to assist in the collection effectively will be severely hampered. Studies show that compliance increases when restitution is brought to a significant level of priority, but that "outcome measures lag when restitution is handled as an add-on condition and is not a top agency concern. Programs that aggressively target restitution generate more successful performances and lower recidivism rates" (Doerner and Lab 1995).
THE COORDINATED INTERAGENCY APPROACH
The coordinated interagency approach developed by the Victims' Assistance Legal Organization (VALOR) is a common sense and systemic approach to solving some of the problems that have plagued restitution programs for decades. This approach addresses the multiparty, multitask elements of the restitution process by calling for the very deliberate elevation of restitution to a system-wide priority.
In the report, Restitution Reform: The Coordinated Interagency Approach, Burnley and Murray (1997) outline the six essential goals of the coordinated interagency approach to restitution management:
Victim involvement. The importance of the goal of victim involvement cannot be overemphasized. Simply stated, active participation and involvement of victims is essential to effective criminal prosecution and entry of accurate orders of restitution. Meaningful victim involvement is a cornerstone to restitution and is integral to its successful implementation.
Although the effects of criminal activity can be far-reaching, it is essential that all key players in the criminal justice system keep in mind that the most direct damages and consequences are borne by the victim of the crime. The payment of restitution is a very basic reminder of this fact. Victims occupy a crucial role at each stage of the process of restitution management and they must not only be acknowledged by the criminal justice system but kept in the center of the criminal justice process.
Effective communication and cooperation. Effective communication and coordination among criminal justice agencies and personnel are crucial to successful restitution management; lack of such communication affects every aspect of the process. It is essential that shared information about the restitution process and decision making throughout that process be a routine component of any restitution program.
Efforts to improve restitution management will be severely hampered without the establishment of regular and effective channels of communication. The achievement of this objective lays the groundwork for the remaining goals. As noted by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in its publication on improving restitution collection, "teamwork is the answer" (AOUSC 1992)
Clear delineation of restitution roles. Since restitution involves so many tasks, it is essential that agency roles be clearly defined and acknowledged. The lack of such clarity can lead to the duplication of services and/or failure to provide certain services at all. One study revealed the following:
. . . it was not unusual at all for prosecuting attorneys, victim advocates and probation officers all to prepare a Victim Impact Statement and to monitor, collect and disburse restitution payments. Not only does this result in poor coordination, but it exacerbates victims' second class status in the criminal justice system. If no single agency has primary responsibility to seek and monitor restitution payments to victims, no one agency can be held responsible. Once again, the victim falls through the cracks (Shapiro 1990).
Obviously, such duplication of effort is not only unnecessary, but costly, cumbersome, and counterproductive. Conversely, the failure of any one agency to take responsibility for a particular task may result in it being addressed too late in the process to be effective. Neither the victim nor justice is served when the system fails to define the roles involved in restitution sufficiently and to assign them in the most efficient and effective manner.
Streamlining restitution tasks. Restitution tasks should be viewed with a keen eye towards eliminating unnecessary steps and duplication of efforts. The overlapping of restitution tasks, such as preparing the victim impact statement or notifying victims of case developments, is not only a waste of jurisdictional resources, but also harmful to the overall efficiency of the restitution process. It can undermine confidence in the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. In the same way, when a task is not done because of a lack of coordination, the greatest potential failure of restitution is realized--the failure to provide a remedy that victims have a right to expect.
Effective streamlining and coordination also require the assignment of each task to the agency capable of performing it most efficiently. At times, this may require rethinking of procedures or reallocation of resources; for example, the physical collection of restitution payments from offenders is a task that may be assigned to a number of potential agencies but is most appropriate for that agency specifically equipped to handle financial duties. In a majority of jurisdictions, this agency is the Clerk of Court; however, many jurisdictions provide for specialized collection procedures within the department of probation or within some other criminal justice agency via the establishment of a restitution clerk with the necessary technological resources to track payments and disbursements.
Routine information flow. The establishment of a routine flow of restitution information is closely related to the goal of effective communication and coordination among and between criminal justice agencies. This involves both substantive and procedural information about all restitution cases as they progress through the system as well as data generated from statistics on the status of restitution accounts. It is extremely important for each criminal justice agency to be aware of any developments, changes, problems, etc., that have occurred regarding other agency restitution responsibilities. For example, victim-witness personnel or the agency responsible for routine communication with victims need current information about defaults so that victims can be informed in a timely manner about the resulting effect on payment. Similarly, officers of the Court need to be notified of defaults so that they can respond appropriately.
In any bureaucracy, ready access to reliable information is essential. A critical component of this goal is the allocation of sufficient resources to support the routine gathering and distribution of information.
Participant involvement and accountability. To be accountable, each criminal justice agency and professional must be willing to take responsibility for their portion of the restitution process. Criminal justice practitioners must be accountable to one another, the system as a whole, the community, and the individual victim. As an agency head in Alexandria, Virginia put it, "if one agency doesn't do its job, it just won't work."
The goals of participant involvement and accountability are essential to the overall goals of the coordinated interagency approach. Restitution is about taking responsibility--on every level. Key to the establishment of such responsibility is the recognition of the interdependence of all the components of the criminal justice system. The coordinated interagency approach provides a climate in which acceptance of responsibility and accountability by all participants can be realistically achieved.
The establishment of restitution as a jurisdictional priority necessarily includes a sound and comprehensive approach to the tasks involved in the management and collection of restitution. Victims must be notified of their right to receive restitution as early in the criminal justice process as possible and must be supported throughout the process in achieving a fair order of restitution that is closely monitored. An accurate and detailed assessment of the extent of the victim's injuries and losses is critical to a fair order of restitution. Many victims, especially those who suffer emotional trauma or physical injuries as a result of a crime, may have difficulty providing the information and documentation necessary to develop appropriate restitution orders.
Although documentation of loss is central to the task of restitution, whether it occurs and what is done with the information provided is affected by tasks performed at all stages of the criminal justice process. Before looking at documentation of loss in detail, the following jurisdictional approach to the assessment, ordering, collecting, disbursing, and monitoring of restitution is provided as a framework for consideration in adopting a comprehensive and victim-oriented approach to the management and collection of restitution.
Prior to negotiating any plea agreement, the prosecutor should consult with the victim. While consultation in no way guarantees that the victim's wishes regarding his/her case will be fully granted, it does provide an opportunity to discuss restitution as a mandatory condition of any plea bargain.
THE JUDICIARY AND COURTS
COORDINATION AND COLLABORATION IN ACTION
Changes to the management of restitution in California presents a compelling example of the impact of jurisdictional coordination and the establishment of restitution as a system-wide priority. During the last six years, fifteen statutory changes have been made to improve and/or attempt to streamline the assessment and collection of restitution. Contracts have been (continue to be) established with every county district attorney's office to fund restitution liaison positions to act closely with victims and the courts in the imposition of restitution obligations. Additionally, wage garnishment and trust account intercept programs have been established within the penal institutions. On-site visits, victim services manuals for prosecutors, restitution guidelines, victims' financial options brochures, and training programs for prosecutors and probation officers are essential components of the state's restitution program. The final and perhaps most critical component is the development of an automated restitution tracking system to ensure offenders are held accountable for victim losses and the restitution statutes are appropriately applied (Soderland 1999).
To ensure accurate and complete restitution orders, it is necessary for victims to document their losses in writing for the court or paroling authority. It is important to provide victims with guidelines about the types of documentation that are needed to depict their out-of-pocket and projected expenses for the future.
Some of the following considerations for guidelines should be provided in writing to victims:
During the presentence investigation, victims should be asked to report information about their losses by completing or updating a financial worksheet, and providing documentation as described above.
The range of these losses can include the following:
Mental health services.
Time off from work.
Attending doctors' appointments for injuries or mental health needs directly resulting from the crime.
Projected expenses. Victimization often results in injuries or losses that are long term in nature. While it is not possible to accurately document such projected expenses, it is possible to obtain expert testimony regarding an estimate of future financial obligations the victim might incur as a direct result of the crime.
Victims should be advised to seek documentation (a letter or affidavit) from professionals who are providing them with medical or mental health services that offers an estimate of the victims' future treatment needs and related expenses. Such costs can include the following:
The justice professional responsible for assessing victims' restitution needs should provide this documentation to the court or paroling authority.
ASSESSING THE OFFENDER'S ABILITY TO PAY
The "other side of the coin" of victim documentation of financial losses is conducting an assessment of the offender's ability to pay in order to recommend an appropriate restitution payment plan. The responsible justice agency should evaluate the offender's current and future financial status in making recommendations about both the amount of restitution and the payment schedule.
Issues for consideration include the following:
In Summit County, Colorado, the Fifth Judicial District Probation Department trains its officers to examine the entire financial situation of offenders when looking at issues concerning their ability to pay restitution. For example, if an offender owes restitution and owns expensive, nonnecessity items (i.e., television, compact disc player), then the probation officer can ask the judge to order the offender to sell the possessions to pay restitution to the victim(s).
At times, employing innovative and more controlled methods for collecting restitution when offenders fail to pay becomes necessary. Efforts implemented by a variety of agencies and jurisdictions include the following:
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), forty-one states have laws that provide civil remedies for victims whose offenders' sentences include restitution orders (NCVC 1999). In most of these states, once there has been a default in payment, a civil judgment can be enforced by placing a lien on the offender's real property, garnishing his/her wages, attaching his/her assets or wages, or freezing his/her bank accounts. The attachment of deposited funds ("freezing") is usually time-limited from the initial restitution order (such as twenty-four months) unless it is extended by the court or paroling authority.
The Maricopa County Probation Department in Phoenix, Arizona, requires probationers enrolled in the intensive supervision program and the work furlough program to endorse their paychecks and sign them over to the probation department. Another check is then issued to the offender, minus the payment toward victim restitution. Probationers enrolled in the day reporting program also can be subject to this requirement.
In Summit County, Colorado, offenders who owe more than $2,000 in restitution are required, as a condition of probation, to submit their income tax returns to their probation officers. If the offender is entitled to a tax refund, the probation officer can require the offender to pay that amount toward his/her restitution obligation.
Laws in several states provide for specific measures to enforce restitution orders as civil judgments:
FORFEITURE OF BOND MONEY
In Westchester County, New York, when a "violation of probation" is filed as a result of failure to pay restitution, the probation officer can request bail. The officer then suggests that the court set bail in the amount of the owed restitution, if the amount is not "unreasonable." In the accompanying report to the court, the court is advised that if the violation is sustained and the probationer is willing to assign the bail money as payment of restitution, the probation department would recommend that probation be continued, or, in some cases, terminated. The report recommends alternative sentences for probationers who will not assign bail money. The available alternatives include an upward modification of the order to include a graduated sanction such as "shock time," community service, or possible electronic monitoring. In some instances, a recommendation of revocation and a sentence of incarceration are made.
RESTITUTION COLLECTION IN INSTITUTIONS
The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has implemented an Inmate Restitution Fine Collections System supported by state law that enables the department to deduct 20 percent of inmate wages and other trust account deposits to pay court-ordered restitution. This amount is forwarded to the State Board of Control Restitution Fund. This fund provides reimbursement to qualified victims for expenses incurred as a result of the crime committed against them, i.e., medical costs, burial costs, and counseling. Since its inception in November 1992, this system has resulted in the collection of over $9 million from inmate wages and trust account deposits. CDC's Victim Services Program staff also facilitates voluntary restitution payments made by inmates and parolees, as well as monies derived from annual inmate fund-raisers.
PROVIDING INCENTIVES FOR INCARCERATED OFFENDERS
Correctional agencies can encourage inmates' participation in fulfilling their restitution obligations and increase collections by offering the following incentives:
Failure or refusal to participate in the department's victim restitution program could also result in the loss of privileges.
ACCEPTANCE OF CREDIT CARDS FOR PAYMENT
The Court Administrators Office in Stearns County, Minnesota, accepts credit card payments for court-ordered fines and fees, including restitution. To begin accepting that form of payment, the Court Administrators Office obtained permission from the local judge and the county commissioners. Arrangements were made with a local bank, and the office now accepts MasterCard, Visa, and Discover Card. The Court Administrators Office absorbs the user fee charged by the bank for use of credit cards, which is generally covered by the interest earned on the account. Once an offender offers a credit card for payment of restitution, and it is authorized by the bank, it is an immediate "capture" of funds for the Court Administrators Office.
CONVERTING RESTITUTION ORDERS TO COMMUNITY SERVICE
In extreme cases where offenders are truly indigent and unable to pay restitution, another option is to have offenders perform community service hours in lieu of paying restitution. Victims can have input into the type and location of the community service performed. Offenders may perform direct services for the victim, for a favorite charity of the victim, or for one of the agency's regularly authorized public work projects that the victim selects.
EXTENDING CONDITIONS OF COMMUNITY SUPERVISION
In Washington, offenders who fail to comply with their restitution orders can have their sentence of community supervision extended for up to ten years. This "incentive" monitored by the Department of Corrections often provides impetus for offenders to fulfill their restitution requirements in a more timely manner.
RESIDENTIAL RESTITUTION CENTERS
Residential restitution centers are being used in various areas of the country to enforce the payment of restitution by offenders. Generally, offenders on probation may be assigned to a restitution center where they will live, work, and turn over the full amount of their pay to the agency managing the center. A portion of these funds is returned to the offender and the remainder is used to pay restitution to victims and, in some cases, other court-ordered payments.
USE OF PRIVATE COLLECTION AGENCIES
Some states authorize justice agencies to utilize the services of private collection agencies to secure restitution payments. It is important to note that this approach incorporates a percentage-based "fee for service" such as 10 percent of the restitution collected, which equates to a reduction in the amount of restitution a victim will receive. However, many justice agencies and victims feel that 90 percent of a restitution order is better than nothing at all.
Justice agencies must contract for the services of private collection agencies and establish clear policies that provide guidelines for acceptable collection tactics. Since private collection agencies have experience, automated systems, and employees trained to track down delinquent debtors, this approach can contribute significantly to increased collections of restitution payments.
Agencies responsible for enforcing restitution should also enforce established sanctions for offenders' willful failure to pay and ensure that offenders under their supervision are aware of the range of possible sanctions. Such sanctions can be lifted in extreme cases where an offender can demonstrate hardships that prevent the maintenance of timely restitution payments; however, in such cases, restitution payment schedules should be adjusted and/or extended, not abandoned.
It is also important that victims understand their obligation to report nonpayment of court- and parole board-ordered restitution so that the appropriate justice system official(s) can assess the reasons for nonpayment and possibly consider sanctions for offenders in violation of official orders. Victims should also be provided the opportunity to have input into the type(s) of sanctions that might be imposed. In addition to the remedies noted above, such sanctions can also include the following:
The availability of resources for technological support and automation is one of the single most important components of successful restitution management. The past few years have seen significant advances in terms of computerization of probation departments and court clerk's offices in particular, but the need for allocation of such technological resources cannot be overestimated. Many restitution programs still operate with a handwritten card system for monitoring payments and disbursing checks to victims. Such a system is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and often ineffective in terms of its accuracy in tracking and monitoring restitution payments. Jurisdictions with effective restitution systems can generate accurate, regular data on restitution orders and receipts. This type of information is critical to effective monitoring and enforcement.
Automation can enhance the restitution process in the following ways:
The sufficient allocation of resources for automation is one of many individual factors, described herein, which contribute to successful restitution management and collection. One fact is clear: restitution must be identified as a clear priority across the entire spectrum of the jurisdictional justice system. A system-wide approach to restitution management, including streamlined and consistent goals, in conjunction with careful allocation and management of the restitution tasks outlined in this section, is vital to serving the needs of crime victims regarding the very fundamental and crucial right of restitution. In referring to staff training regarding restitution, Jim Sinclair, Assistant Director of the Department of Community Supervision and Corrections in Tarrant County, Texas, states:
. . . It is not so much focusing on collecting the money as your legal mandate or because it is an order of the court, but to get your staff to buy into the fact that for victims and survivors, restitution has an incredibly powerful symbolic value. Sometimes it is the only way that they have an inkling of hope that the offender is being held accountable (Sinclair 1999).
- Allows the California Department of Corrections (CDC) to collect restitution fines from parolees.
- Allows CDC to collect restitution orders even if the parolee's victim received assistance from the state compensation fund.
- Clarifies that collection of a restitution order (which is paid directly to victims) takes precedence over collection of the restitution fine (which is deposited in the state's Restitution Fund).
- Requires that parolees satisfy their restitution fine obligations before being released to parole in another state.
- Allows CDC and the Board of Prison Terms to require, as a condition of parole, that a prisoner make payments on the outstanding restitution orders and restitution fines.
2. List three obstacles to the successful collection and management of restitution.
3. In addition to serving as a critical remedy for crime victims, list four other purposes that restitution serves.
4. Why is the establishment of restitution as a jurisdictional priority so important?
5. List five ways in which victims can document financial losses for purposes of restitution.
6. List five practical tasks critical to the success of any restitution program.
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