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Better follow-through

Plan would increase restitution payments

By Lanier Holt

lholt@postbulletin.com

A plan to collect more restitution from criminal defendants was outlined Wednesday for the Dodge-Fillmore-Olmsted Advisory Board.

A survey done by the DFO and presented last month showed court-ordered restitution often goes unpaid, leaving victims in the dark.

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Bob Maegerlein, a citizen member of the board, said a committee that reviewed the survey results found the system did not work well in many areas.

"Often, people were receiving multiple letters with conflicting information telling them what to do," he said.

The five-step restitution follow-up plan introduced Wednesday includes specifies roles and responsibilities for staff members throughout the criminal justice system. It also maps out the restitution process to identify gaps and suggest changes.

Follow-up actions aimed specifically at collections include informing all survey respondents of the status and next steps of their claims and sending all victims an informational brochure on the restitution process.

"Everyone involved in the restitution system needs to do a better job at what they're doing," said Andy Erickson, Olmsted County associate director for adult probation. "This problem is too big to lay on any one group. We're just starting to peel layers of the onion."

Similarly, DFO officials say the Olmsted County Board has just begun to understand the ramifications of their decision authorizing the Sheriff's Department to privatize electronic home monitoring.

In a prepared statement, the DFO said the current system isn't broken, doesn't run a deficit and doesn't rely on state funding.

DFO already charges more per offender than any other jurisdiction in the state. Juvenile social services will have a new $30,000 annual bill to pay for juvenile electronic home monitoring, and offenders will pay higher daily rates. The DFO projects significantly more requests to law enforcement to respond to violations, which now are handled by electronic home monitoring staff.

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"The DFO requests that the county board fully corroborate the vendor's viability to add 75 offenders to its client base, fully a one third increase in the number they handle now," Erickson said. "We will be eliminating several county positions and selling our equipment to a new vendor, so we leave ourselves with little fall back should this vendor not meet our needs."

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