This study examined the impact of the imposition and payment of restitution on recidivism in four counties of varying size in central and northwestern Pennsylvania.
A secondary goal of the study was to examine the impact of a mandatory statute on the imposition of restitution orders in Pennsylvania. The statute took effect in 1995, thus data for the current study were drawn from 1994 and 1996 cases that were restitution-eligible. The idea of restitution to victims is not new, yet orders of restitution to crime victims was not a widespread practice in the contemporary criminal justice system until the early 1980's. In the current study, two main hypotheses were tested. First, the authors hypothesized that smaller counties would have more orders of restitution because of the closer social ties in smaller communities. Second, they hypothesized that offenders ordered to pay restitution in smaller counties would be more likely to make the payment because probation officers in smaller counties would be more likely to make accommodations that would allow offenders to pay. The latter hypothesis is related to the way in which restitution is handled by local criminal justice systems. Generally, the collection of restitution is either the responsibility of probation officers or is contracted out to specialized collection units. In smaller communities, probation officers tend to handle all aspects of offender supervision, including the collection of restitution. Data were drawn from 1994 and 1996 court, probation, and costs and fines records from four Pennsylvania counties. Counties were chosen on the basis of variation in county size and on the basis of variation in the use of specialized collection units versus collection by probation officers. Results of bivariate and multivariate analyses indicated that, consistent with the hypotheses, offenders in smaller counties were more likely to receive restitution orders, and a higher percentage of payments were made in smaller counties where probation officers were responsible for collecting restitution payments. Other results revealed that restitution was more likely to be ordered for property offenses, for offenses that are easily quantified, for offenses against businesses, and for offenses occurring after the statute change in 1995. Findings have implications for how restitution is collected and informs policymakers of the inherent differences in formal and informal social control mechanisms between large and small counties. Tables, notes, references