Victim & Survivor Rights & Services

Supporting Victims, Survivors: $16M in restitution

Office of Victims and Survivors staff stand in a park.
The Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services staff . Photo taken in 2019, prior to COVID.

CDCR acknowledges and honors victims and survivors of crime each day, especially during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), April 18-24.

CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS) and professionals working in the institutions are dedicated to ensuring victims and survivors of crime receive the court-ordered restitution to which they are entitled.

Through CDCR’s restitution collection process, an average $2.1 million in court-ordered restitution is collected monthly. In 2020, OVSRS disbursed $16,363,415.07 in restitution to victims, surpassing that of 2019 by more than $4 million.

“Restitution is a basic right that holds offenders financially accountable for their criminal actions, and provides victims with monetary compensation to cover their losses resulting from crime,” said Tiffany Johnston, manager of CDCR’s Restitution Services Unit inside OVSRS.

CDCR collects two kinds of court-ordered restitution: fines and direct orders. A restitution fine is normally ordered on every case by the county court. Funds collected on behalf of fines are directed to the Victims Compensation and Government Claims Board. Meanwhile, direct orders are imposed when a victim has out-of-pocket expenses due to the crime. These collected funds go directly to the victim.

New portal for unclaimed restitution

Currently, there are over 85,000 victims and survivors with court-ordered restitution collected on their behalf. Unfortunately, those people still need to be identified.

OVSRS recently launched the Unclaimed Victim Restitution Portal. This tool allows victims and/or their loved ones to confirm if CDCR has collected court-ordered restitution on their behalf.

“Without the assistance of victims, survivors and their next of kin, the disbursement process could be slow,” says Tiffany Johnston, manager of CDCR’s Restitution Services Unit. “We have to work together in order to achieve a positive result.”

This search portal allows victims and survivors to search the CDCR Trust and Accounting Canteen Database to see if restitution has been collected on their behalf as a result of a court order. If their information matches, they can submit current contact information to OVSRS staff to allow collected restitution payments to be sent.

Unknown Victims Unit

CDCR’s OVSRS has dedicated staff that work every day to locate unknown victims who have had court-ordered restitution collected on their behalf. CDCR disbursed $1,612,751.89 to previously unknown victims in 2020. The job of finding them falls to the Unknown Victims Unit. 

Education for the incarcerated population

To ensure the incarcerated population understands their restitution responsibilities, CDCR provides a comprehensive Offender Restitution Guide, which answers common questions.

“One of our main goals in the last year has been to continue to educate the incarcerated population about their restitution responsibilities,” Johnston said. “(We do this even) if we could not be there in person to provide our normal programming.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Restitution Services Liaisons taught “Transitions” classes at various prisons. The classes focus on how to prepare inmates for their eventual release back to their communities. These courses include education on any outstanding restitution they are responsible for post-release. They learn how to make their payments owed to victims and survivors of crime.

Additionally, the department regularly airs restitution-related content on the incarcerated rehabilitation television channel.