Restitution, Fines, and Forfeiture:

Issues for Further Review and Oversight

T-GGD-94-178: Published: Jun 28, 1994. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the federal government's criminal debt collection efforts. GAO noted that: (1) criminal monetary penalties serve punitive and remedial purposes in the criminal justice system; (2) most criminal fine payments are deposited into the Crime Victims Fund and are used to support victim assistance programs; (3) restitution orders are designed to compensate identifiable victims of particular crimes; (4) by 1993, the outstanding criminal debt increased to $3.6 billion; (5) the increase in criminal debt is largely due to penalties imposed in financial institution fraud cases; (6) data limitations prevent federal agencies from accurately assessing the effectiveness of their debt collection efforts or the amount of outstanding debt; (7) although criminal debt collection efforts could be enhanced by making the National Fine Center (NFC) fully operational, its implementation has been delayed; (8) the NFC purpose is to centralize criminal debt collection efforts and develop a comprehensive criminal debt payments database; (9) NFC expects its centralized system to be fully operational by 1996; (10) asset forfeiture procedures deprive criminals of the proceeds of their crimes and permit federal agencies to seize assets without a criminal conviction; (11) most asset forfeiture proceeds are used to fund law enforcement activities; and (12) although the Justice Department plans to make greater use of asset forfeiture procedures, concerns over their over aggressive use and potential negative impact on victim restitution remain.

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