Juvenile court services to pay 'forgotten' victims
The Northumberland County Juvenile Court Services and President Judge William Harvey Wiest announced 53 victims will be receiving long-awaited restitution checks from the county.
The cases were closed before the victims were paid in full. Some records date back to 1974. The total amount of restitution being distributed is $5,301.86.
Prior to 1998, it was the practice of juvenile court to "purge" juveniles' monetary responsibilities either once they reached age 21, significant time had passed since last payment or the agency was unable to locate the juvenile. Thus, many victims were not monetarily restored to their pre-crime status.
The practice of "purging" juveniles' responsibilities of restitution owed has ceased and juvenile court now attempts to collect every dollar owed through every legal means possible.
In 2006, the Northumberland County Juvenile Court Services established a restitution fund to help reimburse victims who may not have received compensation in full for their loss due to circumstances beyond the court's control. These circumstances include the unfortunate death of the juvenile, a victim who has shown undue hardship as a result of the delinquent act and needs immediate reimbursement or a victim who may not have been reimbursed in a prompt and timely manner.
The juvenile court restitution fund is maintained by a fee charged to all juveniles referred to the agency for a delinquent act. The fee is $25 per referral, plus a $5 per month fee for all adjudicated youth while on formal supervision up to age 21.
Additional funds were collected from a joint partnership with the Northumberland County Area Agency on Aging (AAA), under the direction of Pat Rumberger, in which youth help maintain the lawns of senior citizens who are considered "shut-ins" and run the risk of being cited by the code enforcement officer for having high lawns.
Youth participating in the joint venture include those ordered to complete community service or those who are placed into the restitution accountability program in order to pay back their victims. Any money left after responsibilities are completed or paid in full are placed into the restitution fund.
Taking this into consideration, the Juvenile Court Services Agency did an audit of those files in which restitution responsibilities were purged or the juvenile passed away prior to the establishment of the restitution fund.
Nicole Bozza, Northumberland County JPO Victims of Juvenile Offenders coordinator, and Veronica Moore, student intern from Mansfield University completed the arduous task of researching all restitution cases to locate victims who were not paid; locating the juvenile files from the closed cases archives and finally, dissecting the files to gather as much information on the victim as possible to help locate a current address.
The records indicated that as many as 100 victims were not reimbursed at all or in part. Wiest authorized the agency to release funds from the Juvenile Court Restitution Fund to reimburse those victims who were not fully compensated at the time the juveniles' obligations were purged.
Unfortunately, some of the victims are deceased and will never be fully compensated. Other victims have moved away or changed their name (commonly through marriage) and the office cannot locate them. The court issued an apology for the lack of timeliness in resolcing the issue. . The agency continues to work to improve services to all victims.