Stephens Bill Requiring Inmate Restitution Passes Committee
HARRISBURG-- Legislation introduced by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) to force inmates to pay restitution to their victims passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously today.

“Unfortunately, while inmates are spending millions of dollars at the prison commissary, victims remain unpaid,” said Stephens.

From 2010 through November 2012, Pennsylvania ordered defendants to pay more than $434 million in restitution. However, victims ended up with only about $50 million, a collection rate of 11.52 percent statewide.

Stephens’ legislation, House Bill 2386, would require mandatory deductions from an inmate’s wages and deposits made to inmates’ personal accounts for the fulfillment of restitution, costs, fees and other court-ordered obligations. Current law authorizes, but does not require, such deductions.

“Very simply, if someone steals your TV, they should not be able to buy themselves a TV in prison before paying you for the TV they stole. This bill puts victims of crime ahead of the criminals,” Stephens said.

Stephens’ bill would require 25 percent of inmates’ wages and 75 percent of the money deposited into their accounts from outside sources to be dedicated to making their victims’ whole.

Stephens’ bill is one of a five-bill package, the collective goal of which is to strengthen the restitution collection rates in the state’s criminal justice system.

In October 2011, the Office of Victim Advocate convened the “Restitution in Pennsylvania” Task Force, which included individuals from agencies and organizations representing all stages and aspects of victim restitution work. The Task Force undertook a comprehensive examination of the restitution system in Pennsylvania and identified opportunities to improve this system of restorative justice at both the state and county levels.

Following publication of a final report in 2013, a bipartisan working group of the House Judiciary Committee began to review and evaluate the Task Force’s recommendations. In conjunction with the Office of Victim Advocate and other Task Force members, and after holding a hearing on the matter, the group developed an initial package of five bills, each of which promotes enforcement of restitution orders by focusing on collections.

The other bills passed by the committee include:

House Bill 2382, which would require the amount of any outstanding restitution, court fees, fines or court costs be deducted from any state income tax refund that otherwise would be remitted to a taxpayer.

House Bill 2383, which would authorize wage attachments for the payment of restitution, fines and costs. This bill would maintain first priority status for support payments and grant second priority to restitution. Current law governing the attachment of wages gives priority status only to support obligations.

House Bill 2384, which would require each county to establish an internal unit dedicated to the collection of restitution, fines, fees and other court-imposed obligations.

House Bill 2385, which would provide for the deduction of restitution, fees, fines and costs from bail monies that would be otherwise returnable to a defendant.

The committee also passed House Bill 2134, which amends the Crime Victims Act in order to raise the costs assessed on offenders which are used to fund victim services. The bill would raise the minimum cost for an adult who pleads guilty or is placed in a diversionary program from the current $60 to $110. The bill also would increase the minimum amount assessed against juvenile offenders from $25 to $35. 

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
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