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Inmate loses challenge to how DOC used his prison funds to pay costs, restitution

Cle A. Gray, Jr. v. Robert Humphries, 2016AP584-CR, 4/6/17, District 4 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including state’s brief)

Gray sought to prevent the Department of Corrections from taking certain money from his prison accounts to pay the costs and restitution Gray had been ordered to pay, but the court of appeals holds DOC’s collection actions were valid under the judgment of conviction and relevant statutes.

Gray’s judgment of conviction orders him to pay $268 in costs, to be “paid at the rate of 25% of prison wages and work release funds.” The judgment also specifies that restitution would be paid pursuant to a “separate court order”; the separate order set restitution at $2,757.68 and specified it would be paid using “up to 25% of prison funds….” (¶2). Gray complains that, in addition to taking his prison wages, DOC was wrongly taking money he received as gifts, and that DOC was collecting more than 25% of his funds. (¶3).

As to taking money from gifts rather than just wages, that’s permitted to pay restitution by both the restitution order’s broad reference to “prison funds” rather than “prison wages” and by § 973.20(11)(c), which (very circuitously) directs the court to require the defendant to authorize deductions for restitution “from the defendant’s wages and from other moneys held in the defendant’s prisoner’s account….” (¶¶6, 7).

Note that § 301.32(1) also arguably allows DOC to use gift money to pay costs, surcharges, and other non-restitution obligations. Under that statute, DOC takes in “all money or other property delivered … for the benefit of a prisoner” and credits it to the prisoner. The statute then provides that the property may be used only under the direction and with approval of the warden for payment of certain surcharges (including the victim-witness and DNA surcharges) and for “the benefit” of the prisoner. DOC’s administrative rules—specifically, Admin. Code § DOC 309.49(4)(e)—authorize DOC to disburse general account funds for “claims reduced to judgment”—which would include costs and surcharges listed on a judgement—because payment of obligations and debts helps the inmate “develop a sense of responsibility,” Admin. Code § DOC 309.45(3).

As to DOC’s collection of more than 25% of Gray’s funds, that’s okay under the judgment because there are two categories of obligations being collected: “the amended judgment of conviction and the separate restitution order that the judgment incorporates, taken together, provide that 25% of Gray’s prison wages will be taken to satisfy the $268 in costs, and that up to 25% of all of Gray’s prison funds, including prison wages and ‘gift monies,’ will be taken separately to satisfy the $2,757.68 in restitution.” (¶7).

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