Violent crime victims struggle to get restitution
Once robbed by a teenager, an Alabaster man feels victimized again. He hasn't seen a dime of the thousands of dollars ordered in restitution.
"He put the gun to her head and said give me the keys," Donald English says as he recalls the horrifying night he and his wife faced an armed 14-year-old. They were working late cleaning the parking lot of a Bessemer Waffle House.
A police chase ended with English's vehicle totaled and their work supplies destroyed.
"I lost the car and $400-$500 worth of paint," explains English.
A judge ordered $3,000 in restitution from the teenage offender. That was back in 2014.
"I haven't seen any inclination I will ever see a dime," says English. The Bessemer District Attorney's office spoke with us in broad terms. Since this was a juvenile case, prosecutors are limited in what they can say.
We're told a parent or custodian can be held responsible to cover the losses. A restitution unit is in place in Jefferson County to help with collections. Victims can also convert the restitution orders to a civil judgment to try and collect.
The Alabama's Crime Victims Compensation Commission is another avenue to recover losses. Executive Director Cassie Jones explains it covers things like funerals, medical expenses, counseling, travel and lost wages up to $20,000. In 2016, Alabama awarded $2.8 million to victims. "We do give emergency funds. This is not need based or tax based," explains Jones. Property crimes are not the focus. "It has to be face to face threat of injury or death."
Federal grants, fees and fines for things like speeding tickets provide money for the program. First established in 1984, total payouts top $103 million dollars.
"All of these touch your heart. The things that have happened to them, it changes them forever and it changes us reading their stories everyday," says Jones.
Applications can be filled out online:
You need to apply within a year of the crime.