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California DOC Closes Prisoner Work/Restitution Center

California DOC Closes Prisoner Work/Restitution Center

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has closed an innovative program that placed nonviolent prisoners in a community work-release center so they could earn money to pay restitution to their victims. Although the closure was a consequence of the state’s budget crisis, CDCR deputy press secretary Gordon Hinkle said he didn’t know how much money would be saved.

The work-release prisoners at the California Restitution Center in Los Angeles included two women from rural Shasta County. Mary Vanatta had a three-year prison sentence for embezzling over $200,000 from Northern Rehabilitation and Respiratory. Virginia Moye was serving two years for stealing $85,000 from two Salvation Army thrift stores that she managed. Shasta County District Attorney Erin Dervin called the center a “good program. ... We didn’t get back a tremendous amount of money they owed, but we did get some. It’s better than nothing.”

One-third of the prisoners’ earnings went to restitution. Another third went to the state, while the final third was paid to the work-release prisoners. The Center housed up to 100 prisoners who were employed at regular day jobs in Los Angeles but returned to the facility at night. Following the December 2008 closure of the work-release center, they were sent to minimum-security prisons. [See: PLN, April 2009, p.9].

The California Restitution Center was the only program of its kind in the state.


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