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Perception and Payment of Economic Sanctions: A Survey of Offenders

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 70 Issue: 3 Dated: December 2006 Pages: 26-31
R. Barry Ruback; Stacy N. Hoskins; Alison C. Cares; Ben Feldmeyer
Date Published
December 2006
6 pages
This survey of 122 offenders in 2 Pennsylvania counties examined various explanations for high rates of offender nonpayment of financial sanctions.
The study found that indicators of motivation to pay financial sanctions were not significantly related to missing a payment; however, indicators of ability to pay were significantly related to missing a payment. There was strong evidence that offenders did not understand how fines, fees, and costs were imposed. Although offenders, particularly property offenders, reported they understood how restitution decisions were made and imposed, they did not agree with the rationale for economic sanctions. They did not rate any of the goals of financial punishment very highly. Also, offenders did not understand where the money they paid went. The problem was even greater when offenders owed multiple amounts for many cases. Future research might examine how best to convey this information to offenders and whether this information gives offenders a better understanding of the penalties imposed on them, makes them feel more responsible for their crimes, and reduces their likelihood of reoffending. The self-report survey mailed to the offenders was divided into 4 sections that included 41 questions. The first section asked questions about the respondent's offense and punishment. The second section asked about the economic sanctions imposed in the case, including the amounts for costs, fees, fines, and restitution, as well as the payments they had made. This section also asked how well they understood how the amounts for payment were determined. The third section focused on their specific case, including perceived responsibility for the crime, the fairness of the financial sanctions, and the procedures used to determine the amounts. In addition, respondents completed a scale that assessed their understanding of various punishment goals in their cases. 2 tables and 18 references