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We are the nation's leading resource and advocacy organization for crime victims and those who serve them. Please join us as we forge a national commitment to help victims of crime rebuild their lives.

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Tara Ballesteros
Director for Public Affairs
202.467.8743 (office)
tballesteros@ncvc.org

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Technology and Policy Support Officer
202.467.8751
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Making Restitution Real Released by National Center for Victims of Crime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2011

CONTACT:
Liz Joyce
(202) 467-8729
ejoyce@ncvc.org


Report Explores How to Improve Collection of

Crime Victim Restitution

Washington, DC: The National Center for Victims of Crime today released Making Restitution Real: Five Case Studies on Improving Restitution Collection . This thought-provoking report, supported by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice, describes five successful restitution-collection programs in different states. The programs described here were highlighted and discussed at an April 2010 Restitution Roundtable of experts in Washington, DC, and offer several models for improving the collection of victim restitution.

For varied reasons, jurisdictions throughout the United States have a poor record of collecting court-ordered restitution from offenders. Uncollected criminal debt at the federal level totals more than $50 billion, most of which is restitution owed to individuals and others harmed by defendants.1 State-level restitution collection is equally disappointing. In Maryland, by December 2008, for example, the state's Division of Parole and Probation had collected only 12 percent of the court-ordered restitution in fiscal year 2007, and in Iowa, outstanding court debt, including restitution, amounted to $533 million in 2010.2

Behind these numbers are crime victims who need resources to recover from the crimes committed against them to rebuild businesses, recover from stolen savings, or repair crime-related damage to their lives. But because jurisdictions often lack effective systems to collect restitution, victims often do without the resources the courts awarded them.

"Court-ordered restitution signals the state's commitment to hold offenders accountable and help victims heal," said Mai Fernandez, executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. "By showcasing successful approaches to collecting restitution, our report lays the groundwork for correcting a major flaw in our nation's response to crime victims."

The papers reflect the efforts of five jurisdictions to improve the collection of crime victim restitution:

  • California and Michigan have undertaken multifaceted efforts to improve the collection of all state court debt including restitution; they are working to improve statewide policy and tracking of payments, engage local stakeholders, and promote best practices.

  • Vermont has created a restitution fund through which crime victims can receive restitution immediately while the state takes on the burden of collecting from the defendant.

  • In Maricopa County, Arizona, a restitution court targets probationers who are delinquent in payments; the court is using some of the same techniques that are employed to collect child support.

  • And in Florida's Eighth Judicial Circuit, Project Payback works with juvenile offenders, encouraging them to take responsibility for their actions and helping them meet their restitution obligations.

These approaches, though varied, show that powerful leadership, strong commitment, and openness to new thinking can help jurisdictions make restitution a more effective feature of their criminal justice systems.

Making Restitution Real represents the first phase of a project funded by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice, to improve the collection of victim restitution. The National Center for Victims of Crime is also working with stakeholders around the country to develop a toolkit of resources that can be used by state and local jurisdictions to strengthen their ability hold offenders accountable to their victims.

"Making Restitution Real tackles one of the criminal justice system's toughest challenges," said Joye E. Frost, acting director of the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. "By presenting such promising approaches to collecting restitution, the report promotes justice for victims, accountability for offenders, and the authority of our courts."

Making Restitution Real: Five Case Studies on Improving Restitution Collection is available for download at www.ncvc.org or by calling the National Center for Victims of Crime at (202) 467-8700.

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1. Testimony of U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Hearing on Legislation to Improve the Collection of Federal Court-Ordered Restitution, April 3, 2008.
2. Darren Waggoner, Iowa Approves Bill to Help Recover Millions in Debt, Collection & Credit Risk, March 25, 2010.

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The National Center for Victims of Crime, established in 1985, is the nation's leading resource and advocacy organization for crime victims and those who serve them. For more than 25 years, the National Center has led this nation's struggle to provide crime victims with the rights, protections, and services they need to rebuild their lives. For more information, visit www.ncvc.org.