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Many crime victims not being paid restitution

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — Unpaid restitution for crime victims in Outagamie County totals more than $3.5 million over the last 35 years and officials say the problem is indicative of what is going on in the entire state.

Curt Nysted, financial operations manager for Outagamie County’s clerk of courts, said the amount owed to victims involves more than 1,000 cases since 1979.

“Certainly, there are victims who will never get paid, unfortunately,” Nysted told Post-Crescent Media.

Judges in Wisconsin routinely order criminals to pay restitution for a variety of offenses, including burglary, theft, destruction of property, forgery, assault and fraud.

Restitution is collected by agents with the state Department of Corrections for offenders who are placed on probation. When probationary periods expire, the county is responsible for collecting the money.

Jill Karofsky, director of the Office of Crime Victim Services for the Wisconsin Department of Justice, said the problem is a statewide concern.

“It is definitely in the top five complaints we get from victims — not getting the money owed to them,” she said.

Nysted said tax refund intercepts have been effective in recouping some of the unpaid restitution, and obtaining civil judgments against defendants who haven’t paid is another option.

But Karofsky said a victim who gets a judgment must go to court and request that an offender’s wages be garnished. The victim must pay filing fees and make sure the offender is notified of the hearing.

“It really isn’t much of a solution for victims,” Karofsky said. “We’re throwing this back into the laps of victims.”

Karofsky said the state needs to prioritize the collection of restitution, possibly by adopting a system similar to child support payments. Another option is to prevent those who owe restitution from obtaining certain licenses from the state, she said.

Information from: Post-Crescent Media, http://www.postcrescent.com

One comment

  1. Although ignored or overlooked in the article, one of the biggest impediments to the payment of restitution is Wisconsin’s insistence on overincarcerating defendants. Imprisonment clearly is required in some cases. However, as a criminal defense attorney, I see far too many marginal cases in which the state and the victims insist on sending someone to prison for long sentences while ignoring the fact that incarceration will both remove the defendant from a paying job from which he or she could have paid restitution and minimize the likelihood the defendant will be able to find employment once he or she is released, all while wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money. Rather than insisting that every case is the worst case in the world, some common sense from prosecutors and courts in terms of whether to sentence someone to state prison as opposed to Huber time and probation likely would have a significant impact on restitution payments while still serving the deterrent and protective purposes of sentencing.

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