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$100 Million In Restitution Fines Collected From California Prisoners Since 1992

In an April 26, 2007 speech at the National Crime Victims? Rights Week in southern California, Governor Schwarzenegger announced that over $100 million had been collected from prisoners since 1992 in the form of court-ordered restitution fines. ?If you commit the crime, you pay the debt. ... In California, it is the victims? constitutional right to recover financial damages caused by a criminal, ... [including] medical bills and loss of wages,? he said.

One paralyzed shooting victim recounted how the state victims? fund had paid him $69,000 for medical care as well as for ramps and widened doors in his home to accommodate the wheelchair he needed.

Although incarcerated prisoners have 55% deducted from all funds they earn or are sent to them in prison [except family visit expenses up to $70], parolees are not dunned. [But a California law prohibits parolees from leaving the state if they have a restitution balance owing.]
However, Schwarzenegger announced that beginning in May 2007, California?s parole agents and the Franchise Tax Board will hound parolees who haven?t paid their fines. Thus, tax refunds will first go to the victims? fund, not the tax-paying parolee.

While these actions may well collect restitution balances owing, they may also backfire. Parolees? ability to survive financially is tenuous enough without having their legitimately earned meager wages attached without notice. The predictable result is that they will be driven to the underground economy to survive, where they deal in cash and avoid the tax man. If caught in such illegal activity, they may well have their parole violated, costing the taxpayers $62,000 per year in re-incarceration costs. Arbitrarily collecting back fines from law-abiding parolees may thus prove to be a Pyrrhic victory that only a politician could savor.


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