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Pima County’s Public Defense Services, partnering with Tucson Bail Fund, received a federal grant to assist minors and adults in satisfying orders from juvenile adjudications.
The Pima County Victim Restitution Assistance Project (PC-VRAP) is a three-year pilot program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
The program is designed to alleviate the financial burden of indigent clients who are unable to pay Court-ordered victim restitution.
Completing the restitution makes it more likely for an individual to get their juvenile record destroyed, which eliminates a major barrier for future employment and housing, thereby decreasing their risk of recidivism.
“The project will help make victims financially whole and help them be able to move on from difficult situations where they have suffered harm,” said Derek Koltunovich, the Juvenile Defense Team Attorney Supervisor in the Pima County Public Defender Office. “This is especially significant in cases involving juveniles, who often don’t have access to resources to allow them to pay restitution orders.”
A young adult cannot get their juvenile record destroyed, which is allowed by statute, if they owe any victim restitution. A youth may also remain on probation for longer periods of time if they cannot pay their restitution, even if they are otherwise compliant and have stayed out of trouble.
To qualify, an applicant:
- Must have an outstanding Pima County Restitution Order through the Pima County Juvenile Court
- Cannot have outstanding delinquency petitions
- Must have no felony convictions, if over the age of 18
Individuals can apply for restitution assistance on the Tucson Bail Fund website. All applications will be reviewed and processed by the Tucson Bail Fund team. Restitution payment will be coordinated by Public Defense Services.
PC-VRAP, which opened in August, already has distributed nearly $28,000 toward outstanding restitution and is funded to disburse about $82,000 in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2024.
“We hope this program will also provide valuable data to show that restitution assistance and the associated benefits, primarily destruction of juvenile records, will reduce recidivism among the youth and young adults that access the program,” Koltunovich said.
“In turn, this will result in increased community safety due to improved job opportunities, more financial resources, and a sense that the community cares about them and their future.”