USTICE CENTER GUIDE CALLS FOR POLICY CHANGES TO INCREASE CHILD SUPPORT AND VICTIM RESTITUTION PAYMENTS BY PEOPLE RELEASED FROM PRISONS AND JAILS
The Council of State Governments Justice Center issued a publication today on why victims and children of people released from prisons and jails often do not receive the restitution and support they are owed. Repaying Debts is a first-of-its-kind comprehensive guide, supported by the U.S.
Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance, that details how policymakers can increase financial accountability among people leaving correctional facilities, improve rates of child support collection and victim restitution, and make individuals' transition from prisons and jails to the community safe and successful.
People released from prisons and jails typically must make payments to a host of agencies, including probation departments, courts, attorney generals' offices, and child support enforcement offices. While coordinated collections efforts among these agencies could increase rates of repayment to victims, families, and criminal justice agencies, there is rarely a single agency tracking all of an individual's court-ordered debts and facilitating payment.
"People leaving prison and jail often owe huge sums to their children, their victims, and to several criminal justice agencies, yet have no resources, marketable skills or legitimate employment to help meet these obligations," said State Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie (D-Nevada), who served on the advisory group for the project. "Further, no single government agency can tell you how much these individuals owe in total.
Even worse, criminal justice agencies often work at cross purposes, which can leave children and victims at the end of the payment queue."
In addition to child support, an average of $178 million per state in court costs, fines, fees and restitution has gone uncollected. Failure to pay--even by those trying in good faith to repay debts--may even result in individuals' reincarceration, during which time those owed money are not being paid and taxpayers are footing the bill for their corrections costs.
"States must make some important policy changes that facilitate payment of child support, prioritize victim restitution, coordinate collections among many different agencies, and support people leaving prison and jail in ways that advance long-term payment of these debts," said State Senator Alan Cropsey (R-Michigan), also a member of the project's advisory group.
The report recommends very specific strategies to improve how people released from prisons and jails meet their court-ordered financial obligations. It also provides examples from states that have successfully implemented some aspect of these strategies, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The report and a summary of its findings and recommendations can be downloaded for free at [justicecenter.csg.org
For more information, contact Martha Plotkin at (240) 482-8579 or firstname.lastname@example.org
, or Danielle Langone at (240) 482-8583 or email@example.com
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies--informed by available evidence--to increase public safety and strengthen communities. For more information, visit us on the web at www.justicecenter.csg.org.