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California Restitution Fine Collection Rate Raised to 33%

California Restitution Fine Collection Rate Raised To 33%

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) increased the percentage it collects from deposits to prisoner trust accounts to pay unpaid restitution fines from 22% to 33%, effective July 1, 2003. Deductions will further increase to the statutory maximum of 55% on July 1, 2004.

California Penal Code § 2085.5 permits CDC to deduct a percentage of all deposits made to prisoner trust accounts (except those protected by federal law, such as Veterans Benefits under 38 USC §5301(a) [PLN, March 2003] to apply to outstanding balances of restitution fines. Thus, from 20% to 50% will be taken "off the top" from prison wages, family gifts, court awards/settlements - literally any money accruing to a prison trust account - plus an additional 10% of the deduction as an administrative processing fee.

CDC had collected the minimum permitted by law - 22%. But in November, 2002, CDC announced proposed changes to its regulations, 15 CCR §§ 3097(a) and (b), scheduling an increase to 55% for 2004, while leaving open the timing of an interim increase to 33%.

Since wages of staff canteen workers in California are paid directly from canteen profits, this major reduction of prisoners' spending money (annual CDC canteen sales exceed $40 million) might cost both staff jobs as well as lowered state sales tax revenues. Prisoners who cannot afford to lose half of their lifeline support from home may want to have commodities such as TVs, radios, food and shoes shipped in pre-paid and have larger "care" packages sent in rather than money.

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