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Prosecutors ask for restitution despite low collection rate

Collection rate for parolee restitution in Bexar County 3.5 percent

SAN ANTONIO - With limited earning power for offenders who are released from prison, those who order restitution know it might go unpaid, but it doesn't dissuade prosecutors from asking for it.

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It's been seven years since Rose Kappmeyer's husband was hit by a drunk driver.

A judge ordered the driver to pay 87,000 dollars in restitution to cover medical bills that mounted before her husband took his last breathe.

To date, she has not received one payment.

"I buried him on the 15th of July. Now why do I have to pay for his death, for his hospitalization when he had no blame whatsoever?" Kappmeyer said.

"Restitution is important to the victims," said Assistant District Attorney, Cliff Herberg. They've suffered the loss and often times our victims are devastated by the criminal activity that occurred and so we fight very hard to get their money back.

Herberg also explained up front restitution is the most effective because there is an immediate payoff, citing the total collected during the last 26 years.

"We've collected about 135 million dollars and that doesn't include houses, cars, property, jewelry, other things. It's just money," Herberg said.

In comparison, the numbers for traditional restitution paid by parolees in Bexar County are much less impressive, with the payback rate being roughly 3.5 percent in Bexar County during the last 3 years.

"Let's face it, a felony conviction generally ruins someone's job opportunities except for lower paying jobs and so to collect that restitution is very difficult," Herberg said.

If the chances of actually receiving restitution are so small, why negotiate it as part of a sentence, the Defenders inquired.

"You can't as they say squeeze blood out of a turnip, but if they do come into money, the judgement is there and that money will be paid back to the victim," Herberg said. There is inheritance to be had, there are jobs, they could win the lottery.

Herberg said another benefit to having an established amount owed in the form of restitution is that it can be used to justify relief under the crime victims compensation fund.

The fund was established by the legislature for victims of violent crimes with money coming from fees collected in criminal cases.

For more information on the fund, you can visit the Attorney General's website.


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