Improved tracking system will provide more money to victims
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is streamlining the collection of restitution which should translate into thousands more victims getting money that was collected on their behalf.
The department’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS) has updated its Trust Restitution Accounting Canteen System to now fully and automatically coordinate with the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) referral system.
“Being victim of a crime can be devastating not only emotionally and physically, but also financially,” said Cynthia Florez-DeLyon, Chief of OVSRS. “This enhancement will assist CDCR’s continued effort to uphold victims’ constitutional right to receive restitution directly from the person convicted of the crimes against them.”
The improvements will allow CDCR to more than double the number of restitution cases referred to FTB from around 1,800 per month to approximately 4,000 per month. The increased referrals will allow CDCR to collect restitution from offenders who have been released from prison but who still owe money to victims.
While incarcerated, every inmate has a trust account which holds funds given by family or friends, wages the inmate earns from work in prison. If the inmate has money in that account, CDCR has penal code authority to take up to 50 percent to pay towards restitution, which can include a restitution fine, a direct order to the victim or both.
Restitution fines are meant to be an offender’s repayment to society. Direct orders are monetary judgments ordered by the court to be paid directly to the victim to compensate for losses. For offenders who have been ordered by a judge to pay both a restitution fine as well as a direct order to their victim, CDCR ensures the debt to the victim is paid first.
Restitution fines collected by CDCR are paid to the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board which uses the funds to help victims pay for expenses resulting from violent crimes. Those expenses may include; medical and dental treatment, mental health services, income loss, and funeral and burial expenses. Restitution fines can range from $300 to a maximum of $10,000.
When an inmate leaves prison and restitution has not been paid in full, all victims’ direct orders are referred to the FTB. The FTB is authorized to use several collection methods including wage garnishment, bank liens, and payment plans in order to collect restitution debt.
Before the improvements, gaps in information between CDCR and FTB resulted in some restitution cases not being pursued after the offender left prison. The recent improvements closed those gaps in information.
Money collected by the FTB goes back to CDCR for distribution to the victim. Victims do not need to make any arrangements with FTB to receive their restitution.
In 2014, a total of $17,546,676 was collected in victim restitution and fines from adult and juvenile offenders.
The FTB has helped collect $22 million in victim restitution since they started working with the OVSRS in 2010.