Kennedy introduces legislation to ensure felons can’t avoid paying restitution to victims

Published 6:54 am Thursday, June 16, 2022

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.)  introduced the Inmate Financial Accountability Task Force Act to ensure that crime victims receive the restitution offenders owe them.

“Convicted felons shouldn’t be able to hoard their money for cigarettes, snacks and games while dodging what they owe to their victims and their own children. I’m thankful to work with Congressman Gooden to make sure that crime victims get the restitution they’re entitled to—and that it comes from the pockets of the people who wronged them,” said Kennedy.

 Criminals in federal prison should not be shielded from their debts and obligations. Victims of their crimes deserve payment, and the mothers and fathers of their children deserve on-time child support payments. This bill would inject more accountability into the criminal justice system and is long overdue,” said Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas), who introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Because victims of crime rarely see any of the financial compensation they are owed, the Inmate Financial Accountability Task Force Act would create a task force to examine the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) collection of victim restitution, child support for inmates’ children and fines.

While there have been several high-profile cases, including the Boston Bomber and Larry Nassar, of inmates who have spent thousands of dollars on themselves while paying the bare minimum in restitution to victims, the problem with collecting restitution remains widespread. Analysis from the Government Accountability Office found that the Justice Department collected just four percent of restitution owed from 2014 through 2016—only $1.5 billion of the $34 billion ordered.

Currently, the restitution process is outdated and fragmented. It involves several state and federal agencies, the judicial system and law enforcement organizations. In addition, it is challenging for law enforcement to monitor, deter and report illicit financial activity within BOP accounts in real-time.

The task force would issue a report to Congress with suggestions to prevent illicit financial activity and suggest best practices for federal agencies to improve the collection of money owed to victims and child support due to inmates’ children.

Text of the bill is available here.