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Making Restitution Real: Five Case Studies on Improving Restitution Collection

NCJ Number
Date Published
140 pages

Five papers by expert practitioners in the field of restitution discuss their jurisdictions' current issues, challenges, and promising practices in restitution collection from offenders.


Two of the restitution-collection programs, California and Michigan, differ in scale and some of the methods used, but both are grounded in a commitment by the State's chief justice to make increased restitution collections a priority. Both programs have adopted statewide mandates that allow local jurisdictions to use a certain number of best practices from a list developed at the State level. Both States have tools to help local courts improve their tracking and reporting of collections. A third paper addresses a statewide effort in Vermont that has a different framework than California and Michigan. Rather than improving local collection efforts throughout the State, Vermont has created a centralized Restitution Unit that pays individual victims upfront and then assumes the responsibility of collecting restitution payments from offenders. Two local restitution-collection programs are also featured. In Maricopa County, AZ, the commitment of a local judge and the probation department led to the creation of a Restitution Court that uses existing legal tools in order to improve restitution collection from offenders. In Florida's Eighth Judicial Circuit, Project Payback prioritizes victim restitution as a means of rehabilitating juvenile defendants and repair the harm done to their victims. All of the five programs have key elements in common: leadership from an individual with the authority to change the status quo; commitment to change and the development of collaboration; and openness to new thinking about the importance of restitution collection and ways of doing it. Each case study includes attachments of tools and documents used in the restitution-collection program.

Date Published: January 1, 2011