LOS ANGELES (CNS) – The Board of Supervisors have approved a plan to take 50 percent of money deposited into jail inmates’ accounts to pay court- ordered restitution to their victims.
The vote on Tuesday, Sept. 15, was 4-1 with Supervisor Sheila Kuehl dissenting.
District Attorney Jackie Lacey recommended collecting 50 percent, the same percentage collected from California prison inmates, saying her proposal amounted to doing what is constitutionally mandated.
Since AB 109 went into effect in 2011, dictating that low-level offenders serve their sentences in county jail rather than prison, “not a single victim has received a cent of restitution” from county inmates, Lacey said.
The Probation Department does collect restitution from felony probationers, but no mechanism for collection has been set up for inmates.
About 12 percent of offenders jailed under AB 109 have been ordered to pay restitution. And some inmates have up to $900 held in a jail “trust account” for their use, Lacey told the board.
“We just can’t forget those victims,” Lacey said.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich read a letter from the CEO of Crime Survivors, an organization that aids crime victims.
The agency works with “mothers not able to get help for their babies and gas to get to therapy and counseling sessions. However, the criminals and offenders are able to get chips and Snickers bars,” the letter written by Patricia Wenskunas said.
Kuehl said that although the state collects 50 percent from prison inmates, counties can choose to mandate collections at levels ranging from 20 to 50 percent. Kuehl said she favored a lower percentage, possibly 30 percent.
“The source of many of these funds are really the families of the inmates,” Kuehl said, later adding, “I understand there’s not a lot of sympathy for inmates.
The plan applies to court orders for convicted offenders to pay victims a specific amount based on economic losses suffered. It does not cover restitution fines levied to assist victims in general with burial, medical and mental health assistance when they are unable to afford these services following a crime.