AP — The California law that eases prison overcrowding by shifting responsibility for thousands of lower-level felons to county jails has made it much harder for certain crime victims to collect restitution from inmates.
The state's 33 adult prisons have a seamless system for siphoning 50 percent of the money out of an inmate's prison account - money earned from a prison job or deposited by friends and family - to pay victims for their losses.
But under the 2011 criminal justice realignment law, thousands of non-serious, non-sexual and non-violent convicts are now serving their sentences in county jails. Those jails do not have in-custody work programs and are not set up to collect restitution.
In addition, counties did not even have the legal authority under the prison realignment law to collect from inmates until several months ago. Most are now scrambling to sort out who will collect the money and how.
Those sentenced to county jail under realignment are lower-level felons less likely to owe restitution, but sentences for crimes that involve fraud, property damage or injuries caused by drunken driving, for example, often include court-ordered payments to victims. Many of those victims are not receiving restitution or are being advised to collect on their own by seeking a lien against their offenders in civil court. continue reading...