President's Message

             Melissa Powell, PAAM President

As the Iron County Prosecuting Attorney, I’m honored to serve as the president of PAAM. Public perception would suggest Iron County (an Upper Peninsula county of 11,000 people) does not see the violent, heinous crimes that occur in larger counties. I can assure you that counties all across Michigan see many of the same violent crimes, and the same devastation they cause victims; in more ways than one. In fact, over 70% of Michigan’s prisoners are incarcerated for violent and assaultive crimes. Regardless of the crime at hand, we need to remember that a person being victimized just had their lives changed forever. Some will experience post traumatic stress, some will become dependent on alcohol/drugs, some will lose family and friends and some will experience a monetary loss that is devastating. Crime victims have constitutional rights that, unfortunately, seem to get lost in the shuffle.

Given, a priority for me this year is to start a streamlined dialogue with the victim services community, prosecutors, judiciary and legislators regarding restitution reform.  

Restitution is not a debt that that the court can waive like court costs. Restitution is a payment from the offender to the victim for the harm caused by the offender’s criminal acts. Victims are constitutionally-owed their restitution. On reports from my court system I have found the outstanding restitution to be a million dollars going back to 2002. In another mid-sized county, the number is around $50 million and in a larger county the number is $23 million.

In a survey of only three counties, the total outstanding restitution is $74 million plus.  If we add in the other 80 counties, where do you think that number is? These are thousands and thousands of people who were victimized for no reason and who are owed this restitution as affirmed by our own constitution.
I believe all of us currently involved in our justice system are people who care strongly about making victims whole and minimizing the trauma they experience through no fault of their own. 
I am inviting criminal justice stakeholders to join PAAM in a discussion about restitution reform and victims of crime. As the conversation occurs, this dialogue will develop. It may involve streamlining the restitution collection process and involve pilot projects. It may involve court rule and statutory reform or a change in processes. It may address amendments to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Whatever the solution entails, PAAM is seeking to resolve the issue on behalf of crime victims and the restitution they constitutionally deserve.