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Repaying Debts: Report Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2007
10 pages

This summary report, the first of its kind, addresses the various types of debts that people released from prisons and jails typically owe their victims, their families, and various criminal justice agencies.


This summary provides an overview of the full report, including highlights of relevant research, policies that should guide an initiative to improve the likelihood that people released from prisons and jails or under criminal justice supervision will meet their court-ordered financial obligations, and practical recommendations for implementing these policies. It also includes examples from a variety of cities, counties, and States that may provide useful ideas for other policymakers to tailor to their jurisdictions. Research shows that many individuals released from prisons or jails have a substantial amount of debt, including supervision fees, court costs, victim restitution, and child support. These individuals typically have insufficient resources to pay their debts; and victims, families, and criminal justice agencies often compete for a share of the small payments these ex-inmates can make. Within units of State and local governments, policies that govern the collection of fines, fees, restitution, and child support often conflict with one another, making it difficult for ex-inmates to meet their financial obligations. Ex-inmates' inability to meet their financial obligations can contribute to their reincarceration based on failure to meet the financial portion of probation supervision requirements. The report recommends that States and localities coordinate, and ideally integrate, agencies' policies, procedures, and information systems so that the fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution orders for each person sentenced to prison or jail are consolidated. Child support and victim restitution should be prioritized. Child-support enforcement policies should be enacted to encourage ex-inmate parents to maintain legitimate employment that will help them provide long-term support to their children. 28 notes

Date Published: October 1, 2007