Thursday, November 26, 2015         


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How many cons owe how much is unknown

By Ken Kobayashi


Thirteen years ago, the state auditor released a scathing report on the Hawaii judiciary's inadequate system for collecting fines and restitution.

Judiciary officials didn't know how much restitution was owed and needed to improve the collection system, the report by state Auditor Marion Higa said. "We found thousands of cases in which fines and restitution have not been paid," the report said. In their response, judiciary officials said an information system to track payments and accounts was scheduled to come online in less than two years.

Today, the judiciary is still relying on what officials call an "antiquated system" that cannot provide statistics on the restitution recovery rate.

The judiciary can now determine how much in restitution is owed by offenders on probation or supervised by the courts, reporting that currently it amounts to $25.5 million. It also provided the Star-Advertiser with figures on the number of new restitution accounts opened each year and the amount of restitution collected each year in all cases.

But the current system cannot provide figures on how many of the 20,000 offenders under court supervision must pay restitution, the amount they owe or how much they paid.

"Those systems simply cannot generate integrated statistical reports," judiciary spokesman Mark Santoki said.

The lack of statistics is a problem in states throughout the nation, making it nearly impossible to assess the success or failure rate of restitution recovery, victims advocates say. It also makes it impossible to compare Hawaii's restitution collection with that of other states.

Susan Howley, public policy director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, said that while the judiciary's figures are "a good starting point," states must do a better job of tracking restitution.

"That is one of the first things that states need to do when they make a commitment to improve the collection of restitution," Howley said. "Until you start tracking what's outstanding, it's hard to get agencies to focus their attention on the problem, and see the scope of the problem."

Although the goal of victim advocates is to recover the restitution in full, Howley said the organization has not established an acceptable recovery rate.

In Hawaii, Santoki said, the judiciary will be able to track restitution for at least misdemeanor cases as early as June 2012 as they continue to implement the Judiciary Information Management System.

Santoki said that since the 1998 audit, Oahu probation officers are now able to access the fiscal accounting system to determine an offender's restitution balance, the most recent payment and reasons for the failure to pay.

In addition, the position of victim services coordinator was created to answer questions from victims, including queries about restitution issues.

Rodney Maile, the new administrative director brought in by Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, will be working with judiciary officials to "ensure continued progress" in monitoring and evaluating the judiciary's restitution efforts though the implementation of the information management system, Santoki said.

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