The Restitution in Pennsylvania Task Force has released a report calling for changes to better help crime victims collect from offenders.
Convened in April 2012, the 39-member panel is comprised of members of state and county agencies integral to restitution work, members of the judicial system, the state’s legislative leadership, and members of the Governor’s administration.
Commonwealth Victim Advocate Carol Lavery said, over the past three years, $434 million in restitution was assessed, but only $50 million was collected.
She said problems with collection are normally due to offenders who owe the money being imprisoned.
Lavery said the members of the task force came to the conclusion that things aren’t working as efficiently as possible.
“Restitution as well as fines, costs and fees has been an ongoing issue in the commonwealth, and, in fact, nationwide. Everyone who does the work recognizes that it can be done better,” said Lavery. “Talking to victims, talking to offenders, talking to those individuals who work in the systems; it’s easy to identify this as an ongoing problem.”
The task force recommended placing defendants on a single electronic payment plan to ensure that older cases aren’t neglected for more recent cases, and legislation allowing courts to order a wage attachment for defendants found in contempt for not paying.
Lavery said they would also like to see the creation of restitution funds and programs shared between the criminal and juvenile court system.
“Both systems have many things that they do well and many things that they can improve,” said Lavery. “There are suggestions in both systems, if implemented in the other, would in fact benefit the other. And, in fact, because some offenders are in both systems it could also benefit both systems.”
The recommendations have been sent to state legislators and judges. Lavery said they now hope to identify a convener to help bring back major stakeholders for future meetings.