Costa bill to strengthen restitution-collection measures clears committee

HARRISBURG, June 16 – The Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee today approved legislation that would require counties to have in place an operational restitution-collection system, said Rep. Dom Costa, D-Allegheny, the measure’s sponsor.

House Bill 1070 would ensure that restitution orders are being enforced at the county level by increasing accountability for existing requirements and enhancing collection and record-keeping requirements.

“If a county does not already use a collection agency, firm or in-house resources to help ensure that restitution is made to a victim, the provisions contained in H.B. 1070 are designed to help the county implement a system that is thorough and efficient,” Costa said. “As a member of the Judiciary Committee and a former police officer, I cannot understate the value that restitution plays in the delivery of justice. Without it, victims will remain that much further from financial and mental closure. Every county should be equipped to stay on top of these orders.”

In 2011, the Office of Victim Advocate convened The Restitution in Pennsylvania Task Force to study and develop recommendations for improving the restitution process in Pennsylvania. The task force identified gaps in law and procedure that negatively affected crime victims’ likelihood of receiving the restitution due to them, and in February 2013, issued its final report, which included 47 recommendations for reforms.

“This bill specifically addresses concerns outlined by the report and would require counties to establish collection-enforcement units with staff who focus solely on collection efforts within the jurisdiction,” Costa said. “It also contains provisions for annual reviews and would seek to keep a balance between the collections and county-assessed prison room and board rates, other county-established fees and other priorities.”