Court Costs and Fees Study, Sunset Advisory Commission, Texas
In 2005, the Texas legislature reviewed the collections practices of courts statewide and found that the courts were unable to provide information about what percentage of the total court fines and fees assessed were actually collected. To gather this information, the legislature required the Sunset Advisory Commission, a legislative review body, to study the purpose, collection, and use of court costs and fees. In its report to the legislature, the commission listed state and local court costs and fees and provided a series of case studies illustrating the costs associated with various offenses, including a minor traffic violation and a driving while intoxicated offense.2
Court-Ordered Financial Obligations Case Study, Center for Community Alternatives, New York
The Center for Community Alternatives developed the following case study, based on New York law, to illustrate all of the court-ordered financial obligations that an individual would make payments toward during the period of his sentence. These include the fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution associated with his conviction, and his weekly child support payments.3
John, age 29, had recently been released from jail when, after refusing a chemical test, he was convicted of driving while intoxicated, a class E felony, and driving with no insurance, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 5 years of probation. Restitution was ordered for damage to a parked car. John also has two children, who were placed into the custody of his mother while John was in jail. John's mother received Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and was required to petition John for child support. John had to meet the following court-ordered financial obligations during the period of his probation sentence:
Multiagency Collections Diagram, Travis County, Texas
CSG Justice Center staff and consultants prepared a diagram (featured on the following page) to illustrate the relationships between the multiple agencies responsible for collecting court-ordered financial obligations from people released from prisons and jails in a sample jurisdiction.
Single Agency Collections Diagram, Collections Improvement Program, Office of Court Administration, Texas
To illustrate the principles of its Collections Improvement Program, the Texas Office of Court Administration developed a diagram depicting the course of action that court administrators take at each juncture in the collections process, beginning with determining whether an individual is able to pay in full at sentencing, and ending with the consequences of noncompliance with the court's orders.4
Mandatory Collections Improvement Program, Select City and County Courts, Texas
As part of its review of court collections policies in 2005, the Texas state legislature found that a voluntary Collections Improvement Program, developed by the state Office of Court Administration and being implemented in a handful of courts statewide, was effective in increasing compliance with court-ordered financial obligations.1 The legislature passed a bill requiring cities and counties with population levels above a certain threshold to implement the program and to provide annual reports about their collections practices. As a sanction for courts' noncompliance, the legislation denied the long-standing ability of city and county courts to retain 10 percent of the dollars they collected.2
Sentencing Statute, Washington State
Washington State's sentencing statute (Rev. Code 9.94A.760) requires that judges, at the time of sentencing or during a subsequent order, designate the total amount of a legal financial obligation and separate this amount into segments toward the payment of restitution, costs, fines, and other assessments. Judges are also required to consider the individual's assets, earnings, and total potential debt when determining the full financial sanction.
Sentencing and Restitution Statutes, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's sentencing statute (Wis. Stat. 302.373) enables judges, when ordering that an individual pay fees to reimburse the state for the costs of his or her incarceration, to reduce this order by the amount of that individual's child support obligations. A separate, restitution statute (Wis. Stat. 973.20) prioritizes the payment of restitution to victims over other obligations to the state, including fines, fees, and the costs of representation.
Intensive Supervision Program, Adult Probation Department, New Jersey
The New Jersey Adult Probation Department consolidates the debts of people under probation supervision and charges its staff with ensuring that people under intensive supervision meet all of their financial obligations. Staff collect information about all of an individual's debts from various courts and direct payments toward restitution and other financial obligations simultaneously. Judges determine how payments are proportioned but prioritize child support, a victim compensation program, and restitution, respectively.1
Offender Obligation System, Department of Corrections, Utah
The Utah Department of Corrections uses an automated accounting system to link probation, parole, and court records throughout the state to track the centralized collection of restitution while individuals are incarcerated or under community supervision. The Offender Obligation System generates monthly statements to remind individuals under correctional supervision as to the status of their restitution payments and the amount of the next payment that is due. Victims may inquire about the status of restitution payments by telephone from anywhere within the state.2
Collections Audit, Office of the State Auditor, New Jersey
In 2004, the New Jersey state auditor reviewed probation records and found that, among 180,000 outstanding cases, approximately 6,000 people on probation owed sums under $25, and an additional 20,000 people owed between $25 and $100.5 The auditor recommended creating collections-only probation cases for amounts between $25 and $100 and writing off as losses amounts under $25 for people no longer under probation supervision. Accordingly, the New Jersey adult probation department does not base its staff performance evaluations on the collection of debts that have been deemed "uncollectible."6
Information-Sharing Statute, Washington State
Washington State's information-sharing statute (Rev. Code Wash. 9.94A.760 (13)) permits the county clerk to access employment records to verify employment or income, to seek wage garnishment, and to perform other duties necessary for the collection of restitution, fines, fees, and surcharges. Clerks add this information to an integrated judicial information system, which includes municipal and superior courts, to track payments toward the total, consolidated debt that an individual owes.
Community Supervision Statute, Parole and Post-Prison Board, Oregon
Oregon's community supervision statute (Ore. Adm. Rule 255-065-0005(5)) caps the amount of an individual's income that parole and post-prison supervision officers can collect toward court ordered financial obligations. Collections are capped at 20 percent of a person's take-home salary, unless the person has significant savings or assets that would permit larger amounts, in which case the cap is waived.1
Restitution Statute, New Mexico
New Mexico's restitution statute (N.M. Stat. 31-17-1 (E)) requires the probation or parole officer, and the court, to consider the following factors when reviewing the restitution plan: the physical and mental health of the individual; his or her age, education, employment circumstances, potential for employment, family circumstances, and financial condition; the damages to each victim; and what plan of restitution will most effectively aid the individual's rehabilitation.
Child Support Statute, North Carolina
North Carolina's child support statute (N.C. Gen. Stat. 50-13.10(d)) provides for the suspension of child support orders during any period when the supporting party is incarcerated, is not on work release, and has no resources with which to make payments.
Child Support Statute, Oregon
Oregon's child support statute (Ore. Adm. Rule 137-055-3330) has established a presumption, to which the custodial parent can object, which states that an incarcerated parent with income of less than $200 per month is unable to pay any child support.
Child Support Modification Process, Department of Corrections, Massachusetts
The Department of Corrections (DOC) sends monthly a list of people who are incarcerated to the Department of Revenue (DOR). DOR performs a data match to identify which people have outstanding child support orders and then sends this list back to DOC. A DOR worker helps parents submit a modification request to the court. DOR also informs court personnel of parents' release dates, so that child support modification orders can be reversed after parents are released.
Child Support Statute, Oregon
Oregon's child support statute (Ore. Rev. Stat. 416.425(9)) returns child support payment amounts to pre-incarceration levels 60 days after a noncustodial parent is released from prison, providing time for parents who have been released from prisons and jails to find employment.3
Training to Improve Restitution Management, American Probation and Parole Association
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) has awarded a cooperative agreement to the American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) to develop and pilot test a curriculum for community corrections and court services personnel on restitution management. For more information on this project or the curriculum, visit APPA's Web site at www.appa-net.org
Impact of Crime on Victims Class, Department of Corrections, Arizona
As part of its Restorative Justice Initiative, the Arizona Department of Corrections is piloting victim impact classes in 6 of its 10 prisons. The 10-week program is designed to help prisoners realize the consequences of their past actions. As part of the program, victims make presentations to prisoners about how crimes such as robbery, substance abuse, drunk driving, and violence can affect victims, and prisoners donate labor for victim service organizations.1
Sentencing Statute, Washington State
Washington State's sentencing statute (Rev. Code 9.94A.760) entitles the party to whom a financial obligation is owed the authority to pursue that financial obligation in civil court.
Restitution Statutes, Colorado
Colorado's statutes (Col. Rev. Stats. 16-18.5-103(4) (a), 16-18.5-107(1), and 16-11-101.6(2)) make restitution an automatic civil judgment that is enforceable until it is paid in full (rather than only while an individual who owes restitution is under criminal justice supervision). The statutes also enable collections investigators to assist victims in pursuing restitution and allocates funds to the judiciary and the Department of Corrections to collect restitution on behalf of victims.
State Income Tax Statute, Rhode Island
Rhode Island's income tax statute (RIGL 44-30.1-3) enables the court to withhold state income tax returns for the purposes of collecting child support, restitution, fines, fees, and amounts of public benefits that the state may have overpaid to individuals.
Restitution Center, Department of Corrections, Multnomah County, Oregon
At the Multnomah County Restitution Center, residents live and work under community correctional supervision and participate in educational, vocational, and behavioral programs. Their wages are collected and divided among a variety of expenses, including room and board, court fees, victim restitution payments, and family support.1
Interstate Compact, Interstate Commissions for Adult Offender Supervision
The interstate compact agreement between the probation and parole departments of member states requires that people under probation or parole supervision be in "substantial compliance" with the requirements of supervision to qualify for a transfer of probation supervision to another state.2
Financial Compliance Program, Adult Probation Department, Maricopa County, Arizona
As part of the Financial Compliance Program, probation officers offer probationers who are at a low risk for recidivism a number of incentives for payment. These include travel permits, less frequent reporting requirements, transfer to reduced supervision caseloads (in which individuals can maintain payments by mail rather than reporting in-person), and early termination of probation when the individual has fully met his or her court-ordered financial obligations.1
Collections Statute, Washington State
Washington State's collections statute (Was. Stat. 10.82.090 (2)) enables courts to forgive the interest on an individual's financial obligations as an incentive for payment. Individuals qualify for a waiver if they meet certain criteria, such as having made good-faith payment efforts and being likely to pay the debt if the interest is forgiven.
Court Fees and Costs Waiver, All Courts, California
Individuals may apply to all courts in California for waivers of court costs and fees if they are receiving food stamps, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), TANF, or other public assistance; have earnings below an income threshold; or cannot pay for both basic life necessities and court costs and fees. Applicants must provide proof of income, financial difficulty, and receipt of public benefits.2
Prison Industry Enhancement, United States
The Prison Industry Enhancement portion of the Justice System Improvement Act of 1979 (18 U.S.C. 1761(c)), established mechanisms for industries to provide prevailing wage employment for offenders, and to deduct a portion of these wages towards taxes, incarceration costs, crime victims compensation boards, savings, and financial obligations.1 Between 1979 and 2005, participants set aside more than $13 million in mandatory savings accounts (for reentry needs such as housing); generated approximately $33 million toward victims programs (including restitution); and paid more than $21 million toward family support (including child support).2
Financial Education Classes, Department of Corrections, Minnesota
The Minnesota Department of Corrections contracts with a private, nonprofit financial education company to provide budgeting and money management classes for people who are incarcerated. The agency also provides free credit reports and counseling to people who are close to release from prison and helps participants improve their credit ratings and increase the likelihood that they will successfully obtain housing and employment and meet their financial obligations.3
Center for Employment Opportunities, Department of Corrections, New York City, New York
The Center for Employment Opportunities meets individuals at the moment of their release from New York City's Rikers Island Jail and provides transportation from Rikers Island directly to work sites scattered across the city. Participants work on day-labor crews, which are run by city and state agencies and involve a variety of assignments including providing custodial services to government buildings, maintaining nature trails, painting classrooms, and cleaning roadways.
Parents Fair Share Program, Department of Corrections and Department of Economic Development, Missouri
In collaboration with the Missouri Department of Corrections, the Missouri Department of Economic Development provides employment and training services to people who are incarcerated or who have been released to the community. Eligible individuals can also participate in the Parents Fair Share program, which provides job placement, transportation assistance, and parenting education. The goal of the program is to increase the ability of parents who are being released from prison to meet their children's emotional and financial needs, including child support. Through other programs, participants also receive budgeting and life skills classes, and photo identification.5
Intensive Supervision Program, Adult Probation Department, New Jersey
In cases where an individual's substance abuse problem interferes with his or her ability to obtain or maintain employment, probation personnel delay collections until the person has completed substance abuse treatment. For individuals with severe mental illness, the probation department provides job training and placement for those who can work, and collects a portion of the disability checks of those who cannot work but have sufficient resources to make payments. Probation personnel also delay collections in cases of pregnancy or injury.6
Social Security Access, Department of Corrections, New York City, New York
The New York City Department of Corrections plans to locate part-time Social Security Administration staff in its jail at Rikers Island to help complete Social Security applications for people while they are still in detention.7
Civic Justice Corps, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice
As part of the Civic Justice Corps program, young adults who are under community supervision perform community service projects such as building houses and maintaining public lands. Participants receive training and education in addition to a stipend, educational benefits, and scholarships. Their wages are used to pay restitution and other financial obligations.1
Sentencing Statute, Iowa
Iowa's sentencing statute (Iowa Stat. - 910.2 1999 Supplement) enables the sentencing court to require an individual who is not reasonably able to pay all or a part of his or her financial obligations (apart from victim restitution) to perform a set number of hours of community service. Service hours are set at an amount the court determines to be approximately equivalent to the value of an individual's court-ordered financial obligations. In Iowa, as well as other states with this practice, service hours are generally valued at a rate of $6 to $10 per hour, depending on the local minimum wage and the prevailing wage for the duties performed.
Homeless Court Program, Superior Court, San Diego County, California
In a community-based court, judges handle quality-of-life related warrants for homeless individuals that involve minor infractions, such as riding the local trolley without a ticket. (Cases handled by this court do not involve victim restitution.) Defense attorneys meet with prosecutors and clients a week prior to the hearing to negotiate agreements for clients. As part of these agreements, the court forgives the jail time and fines, fees, and surcharges of clients who participate in social services designed to address the issues that are likely to be associated with their conduct, such as substance abuse and mental illness.2
Victim Location, Community Supervision and Corrections Department, Tarrant County, Texas
Community supervision staff use a computer service database to conduct extensive, electronic searches of marriage licenses, driver's licenses, city utilities records, nationwide telephone directories, and other sources to locate victims who are owed restitution. In 1999, staff had successfully located 640 victims, who received almost $400,000 in restitution.2