Stephens Bill Requiring Inmates to Pay Restitution Passes House
HARRISBURG-- Legislation introduced by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) to force inmates to pay restitution to their victims has passed the House with strong bipartisan support.
“We have inmates in Pennsylvania who spend millions of dollars at the prison commissary for leisure items like TVs, while their victims go unpaid,” Stephens said. “My bill would require victims to be paid first.”
From 2010 through November 2012, Pennsylvania ordered defendants to pay more than $434 million in restitution. However, victims ended up with only about $50 million, a collection rate of 11.52 percent statewide.
Stephens’ legislation, House Bill 285, would require mandatory deductions from an inmate’s wages and deposits made to inmates’ personal accounts for the fulfillment of restitution, costs, fees and other court-ordered obligations. Current law authorizes, but does not require, such deductions.
“If someone steals from you, they should not be able to buy themselves leisure items for their prison cell before repaying for the items they stole,” Stephens said. “This bill puts victims of crime ahead of the criminals.”
Stephens’ bill would require 25 percent of inmates’ wages and 50 percent of the money deposited into their accounts from outside sources to be dedicated to making their victims’ whole.
Stephens’ legislation corrects a problem identified in 2013 by the Office of Victim Advocate’s Restitution in Pennsylvania Task Force. The task force undertook a comprehensive examination of the restitution system in Pennsylvania and identified opportunities to improve this system of restorative justice at both the state and county levels.
House Bill 285 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Representative Todd Stephens
Pennsylvania House of Representatives