Resolution to Prioritize Victim Restitution


This resolution supports efforts by states to prioritize restitution over all criminal justice fines, fees and obligations.

Resolution to Prioritize Victim Restitution

Model Resolution

WHEREAS, restitution is a critical mechanism by which the criminal justice system acknowledges and addresses the direct harm on victims and survivors of crime;

WHEREAS, failure to collect ordered restitution creates an additional harm and causes crime victims and the public to lose faith in the criminal justice system;

WHEREAS, legislatures in every state and the federal government have required by statute or constitutional amendment that courts order restitution in cases where a monetary loss can be calculated;[1]

WHEREAS, court ordered restitution often goes uncollected and victims remain without the validation and financial resources they need to rebuild their lives after crime;[2]

WHEREAS, restitution debt comprises the largest portion of uncollected federal criminal debt, totaling over $40 billion;[3]

WHEREAS, research has shown that people who pay a high percentage of their restitution obligations have a lower likelihood of committing a new crime;[4]

WHEREAS, research has also found no direct correlation between payment of state criminal fines and lower recidivism;[5]

WHEREAS, states have discretion to prioritize criminal debt payments;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that [insert state] develop legislation to properly address a victim’s right to restitution by prioritizing restitution over all criminal justice fines, fees and obligations.

Approved by the ALEC Board of Directors June 29, 2015

[1] Rachel L. McLean & Michael D. Thompson, Council of State Gov’ts Justice Center, Repaying Debts 28 (2007) available at

[2] Matthew Dickman, Should Crime Pay?:  A Critical Assessment of the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act of 1996, 97 Calif. L. Rev. 1687, 1687–1718 (2009).

[3] See Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, U.S. Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Report: Fiscal Year 2007, tbl.8A (2007).

[4] Douglas N. Evans, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The Debt Penalty: Exposing the Financial Barriers to Offender Reintegration 2 (2014),

[5] Daniel M. Fetsco, Unpaid Restitution:  An Under-Enforced Right of Victims and Suggestions to Improve the Collection of Restitution in Wyoming, 12 Wyo. L. Rev. 367 (2012).