Pentagon pays criminals, not their victims concerns raised about policy

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The Pentagon acknowledged that it pays the salaries of convicted criminals while it gives nothing to some of their victims and said that it is "deeply concerned" with the policy.

"The Department [of Defense] shares the public's concern for victims' welfare," said a statement prepared by Maj. Tom Schultz, a Pentagon spokesman.

The statement Wednesday followed a Dayton Daily News series that disclosed a little-known military practice: Murderers, rapists, child molesters and other criminals are paid up to years after being locked away in military prisons. The series found that in just the month of June, the military paid more than $1 million to at least 665 prisoners, many convicted of serious offenses, including murder and rape.

The examination found that while the military paid criminals, it sometimes gave their victims nothing.

The Pentagon statement acknowledged the series' findings.

"The [newspaper] report is receiving serious consideration," the Pentagon said. "It underscores the need to balance the rights of the accused with the rights of the victim."

The Pentagon acknowledged that while it can give convicted criminals paychecks, it cannot order them to pay victims.

"Restitution is not currently authorized as punishment under the Manual for Courts-Martial," the statement said. It added that, "Military courts have no authority to order garnishment of military pay."

In the statement, the Pentagon admitted that all military convicts are paid until their first appeals are decided. This can take "three FTC to nine months after trial -- sometimes longer," the statement said.

The newspaper examination found that about one-third of all inmates are paid even longer -- sometimes for years -- because their sentences did not include total forfeiture of pay. One inmate earned more than $140,000 since his conviction nearly three years ago for molesting young girls, the newspaper found.

The statement said the Pentagon has proposed changing the part of the system that allows all inmates to get paid until their first appeals are decided.

But changing the parts of the system that allows one-third of them to be paid for up to several years has "yet to be addressed," the statement said.

Several members of Congress vowed to make the military change the practice.

"I will redress this problem and deny all these people the money," said U.S. Rep. Robert K. Dornan of California, a senior Republican on the House National Security Committee and possible chairman of the subcommittee on military personnel.

Sen.-elect Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, a former county prosecutor, said: "One of the things we should look at is how we compensate victims."

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