EDITORIAL: Show same concern for crime victims

York Dispatch

We weren't exactly losing sleep over the short-lived program designed to collect court-ordered restitution from York County Prison inmates.

Crime victims can wait years to see a dime from the people who wrecked their lives — if they receive any at all.

There's just not much that can be done if an offender chooses to ignore the order and is willing to suffer the consequences, such as a wrecked credit rating and the loss of a driver's license.

That explains why the delinquent amount owed to local victims stands in the millions of dollars, according to county officials.

Clerk of Courts Don O'Shell deserves credit for reducing that amount somewhat.

His complaints prompted state Rep. Keith Gillespie, R-Springettsbury Township, to introduce a bill in 2012 that allowed counties to suspend the driver's licenses of people delinquent in paying restitution and other court-ordered fees.

When it became law the next year, O'Shell saw the local amount of restitution owed decrease for the first time in 10 years, from $3.2 million to $2.5 million.

In an effort to collect even more money owed to crime victims, O'Shell last year pushed for a program at the York County Prison to collect $25 from each inmate, with the money going toward court costs, fines and restitution.

County officials agreed to give it a try, but the program was suspended after six months amid concerns about the cost of collecting then money — and the fact the fee was collected from all inmates, even if they didn't owe restitution.

It was permanently shelved this week in a unanimous vote by the York County Prison Board.

O'Shell, who argued other Pennsylvania counties use the very same program, was understandably frustrated by the decision.

But the board — made up of the county commissioners, the district attorney, the warden and other county officials — raised some valid points.

Doug Hoke, vice president commissioner and head of the prison board, said officials will spend the next few months searching for a workable alternative to the $25 fee and present their findings in August.

We hope this is more than lip service.

Crime victims deserve at least as much concern as the prison board has shown for the county purse and inmates.