The Facts
  • More than 87,000 victims are registered with the state’s notification system, informing them of the progress of the case and the offender’s status.
  • In 2008, Texas probationers who owed victim restitution paid an average of $109, totaling $46.8 million. Probationers also performed 9.7 million community service hours, worth $63.3 million based on an hourly rate of $6.55 per hour. In 2008, Texas prison inmates paid a mere $501,000 in total victim restitution, fines, fees, and court costs, an average of only $3.21 per inmate. Parolees did better, paying $1.2 million solely in victim restitution.
  • A national study found that 95% of cases resolved through victim-offender mediation result in a written agreement, 90% of which are completed within one year, far exceeding the average restitution collection rate of 20% to 30%.
  • One study found that 79% of victims who participated in mediation were satisfied, compared with 57% in the traditional court system. Also, the 1,298 juveniles who participated in mediation were 32% less likely to re-offend.
  • Enable Victims to Choose Pretrial Victim-Offender Mediation. Victims of property crimes should be empowered to select mediation with a binding restitution contract enforced by the state as an alternative to traditional prosecution and sentencing. Such legislation was unanimously adopted by each Texas legislative chamber, but time ran out before a conference committee agreed on a final version, and therefore, it has yet to be ultimately enacted.
  • Give Victims a Seat at the Table in Plea Bargaining. Texas should follow Arizona in two reforms: 1) giving victims the right to participate in any plea negotiations with the accused, and 2) requiring that the victim’s position on the plea deal be considered by the prosecutor and presented to the judge prior to approval of the plea.
  • Incentivize Restitution Collection and Strengthen Probation. The state should evaluate probation departments partly based on their success in collecting restitution and incorporate the collection rate as an element in creating a performance-based probation funding formula. More effective probation supervision and treatment programs not only save taxpayer funds by reducing the unnecessary use of prison capacity, but also help victims since probationers pay exponentially more restitution than prisoners and prevent future victims by reducing re-offending.
  • Expand Victims’ Access to Offenders’ Funds. When a victim converts an unpaid restitution order into a civil judgment, lower exemption thresholds should apply than the standard $60,000/$30,000 married/individual property exemptions.
  • Give Rights to Property Crime Victims. The state statute on victims’ rights defines “victim” as a person injured by a violent crime. Thus, despite a constitutional victims’ rights provision that is not limited to violent crime victims, the silence of Texas statutes means that property crime victims have no legal rights concerning involvement in the criminal justice process. Filed in the 82nd session, HB 1715, would have conferred certain rights on victims of felony property crimes, including the right, upon request, to be informed of relevant proceedings, attend those proceedings, and express a preference to the prosecutor on the type of punishment.