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AG Backs Bill To Speed Up Payouts For Crime Victims

Current Law Lets State Collections Trump Restitution Payments

Shawn Johnson/WPR

There’s bipartisan support for closing a loophole in state law that allows the Department of Corrections to collect fines and supervision fees from offenders before victims can receive any court-ordered restitution.

Under current law, the state prison system is first in line to collect fees and fines from offenders while crime victims have to wait. Because offenders often have trouble finding work after serving their sentence, that often means victims are never fully compensated for their loss or injury.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said closing the loophole will help both victims and offenders.

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“Passage of this law will hold offenders accountable and it will actually advance their rehabilitation and will insure that crime victims never have to wait for the state to cover its costs before they receive the money owed to them,” he said.

Putting victims first in line, Schimel said, will speed the painful and often costly healing process of rebuilding one’s life after losing a loved one to homicide or being beaten, raped or robbed. Schimel said virtually all crime victims say their greatest frustration is trying to get the restitution that the court has ordered.

The proposed change in law would not increase an offender’s financial obligations — rather, it simply insures victims get paid first.

Former Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen identified the loophole a year ago in an opinion he released just before he left office.