America’s crime restitution system is broken, reports the Philadelphia Daily News. Although federal law says crime victims have the right to “full and timely restitution,” most receive neither. The Justice Department admits there’s a problem with collecting restitution. After being rebuffed in attempts to change law governing restitution in Congress, Justice Department officials now say they are re-evaluating current policies, relying on existing laws and hiring more investigators to collect more restitution owed to victims.
The Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996 was intended to make full restitution mandatory in almost all cases in which the victims of violence, fraud and other property offenses suffered identifiable monetary losses. The law was hailed as a move toward a more victim-centered justice system. But since the law was enacted 14 years ago, the amount of outstanding federal criminal debt owed to victims in eastern Pennsylvania has zoomed from $8.7 million to more than $664.5 million in 2008. Nationwide, the outstanding criminal debt owed to third parties surged over the same period from $3.7 billion to $44.4 billion.