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Crime victims in Pennsylvania could soon begin getting restitution owed from prisoners under a bill in the state House of Representative that seeks to require the garnishment of deposits made to inmates’ personal accounts, The Philadelphia Tribune reported.

Since current law permits the garnishments but does not require the deductions, “county and state prison inmates spend money from their inmate accounts at the prison commissary on such luxuries as televisions and snack food, while ignoring their obligation to compensate their victims” under court-ordered restitution rulings, GOP State Rep. Todd Stephens said.

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House Bill 285 stems from a report issued by the Restitution in Pennsylvania Task Force, which began its work in 2011 to develop recommendations for improving the restitution process in the state. Its final report, issued in 2013, found that crime victims collected only $50 million of the more than $434 million in restitution from 2010 through 2012—a collection rate of nearly 12 percent statewide. Stephens’ bill would require the state to garnish 25 percent of inmates’ wages and 50 percent of the money deposited into their accounts from outside sources and send those funds to their victims as ordered by the courts. “If someone steals from you, they should not be able to buy themselves leisure items for their prison cell before repaying for the items they stole,” the lawmaker said.

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Garnishing inmates’ accounts is not a new idea. The Lorain County, Ohio Clerk of Courts announced in February that his office garnished more then $105,000 from prison commissary accounts in nearly a two-year period, The Chronicle reported. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction takes the money from the inmates but does not complete wipe out their commissary accounts. The garnishments cease when the account drops below $25.

SOURCE:  The Philadelphia Tribune, The Chronicle

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