The Iowa Supreme Court ruled today in a case involving the payment of restitution by prison inmates. Beau Morris was convicted of first-degree robbery and second-degree sexual assault in 2004 and ordered to pay restitution of more than $16,000 along with two consecutive 25-year prison terms.
Morris began working for a private business in 2011 under a work agreement with the Iowa Prison Industries program and was paid more than $10 an hour. He agreed that 15-percent of his wages would be used for restitution, but in 2012 he asked the district court and received a modification so 50-percent could go to restitution.
The Department of Corrections resisted the change, saying it would impact the amount of money taken for supervision costs of the employment program and the costs of keeping Morris in prison.
A second Polk County District Court judge sided with the corrections department and returned the restitution amount to 15-percent. The Iowa Supreme Court says the law clearly indicates the court’s order on restitution takes priority as the legislature decided to compensate victims of crimes and other recipients of restitution before permitting the state to be reimbursed for its costs. The Supreme Court says the district court abused its discretion in overturning the original order to increase the amount deducted from Morris’ check for restitution.
The Supreme Court though did leave open the possibility that the Department of Corrections can appeal on the grounds the increased money paid for restitution violates the work agreement Morris signed to get his Prison Industries job.
See the full ruling here: Morris restitution ruling PDF