Monday, July 8, 2013

Restitution Rights for Victims

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

The question was recently posed about the fairness of asking defendants to pay restitution when they have so many other hurdles to overcome. I certainly understand these are trying financial times for everyone, for defendants and victims. While difficulties for offenders post-incarceration may be more visible to the public, let me remind you that we receive requests for assistance from victims that have lost jobs, homes, means of transportation, and physical aptitude, many of whom have suffered life-altering changes and significant mental trauma as a result of crime. Victims do not ask to be victimized and each has the absolute right to be made whole.

Many crime victims suffer life-altering losses.

The Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008 codified the right to restitution along with other important victim rights. Restitution plays an important role in healing for victims. It is designed to provide financial restoration and to mitigate some of the negative impacts of crime. A victim of crime should not have to suffer calls from bill collectors or loss of independence because of someone else’s choices. Restitution can financially relieve the burdens placed on victims as a result of the crimes that occurred.

Restitution can be beneficial not only for victims, but also for offenders. For many offenders, restitution acts as a tool for their rehabilitation. Studies have shown that paying restitution can reduce recidivism. It gives offenders a way to take responsibility for their actions, make reparations to victims, and address feelings of guilt in a helpful way.
"We cannot forget about the support needed for victims who are impacted by unforeseen crimes, many of whose worlds are turned upside down."

There is no mistaking that crime costs us all. However, restitution fines help to shift the financial responsibility for crime back to the offenders. The money collected through fines paid by offenders helps to keep the Restitution Fund viable so victims’ needs may be met if there is no other form of payment available; for example, when the offender’s identity is unknown, or when a defendant is unable to pay for all of the expenses immediately.

It is important to uphold the rights of California’s victims. We cannot forget about the support needed for victims who are impacted by unforeseen crimes, many of whose worlds are turned upside down. I remain committed to our fight to ensure that victims receive the restitution owed to them and that offenders pay their debts.

Julie Nauman is the Executive Officer for the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). VCGCB provides compensation for victims of violent crime and helps to resolve claims against the State.