Ruback, Gladfelter, and Lantz (2014) used an experimental design to test the effects of sending monthly letters to probationers who owed restitution to crime victims. The 771 study participants were randomly assigned to one of the following four conditions: 1) Information Only (probationers received monthly letters [for 6 months] with information about what they owed, how much their monthly payments had been, and how much they still owed); 2) Rationale Only (probationers received a monthly letter [for 6 months] describing why the economic sanctions were legitimate and why they should pay their restitution); 3) Information-and-Rationale (probationers received a letter combining both the information about the amounts owed, paid, and remaining, and the rationale for payment of restitution); or 4) the control condition (probationers received no letters).
About 75 percent of the total study sample was male. More than 80 percent were white, 15 percent were black, 3 percent were other, and the remaining participants did not have race information. The average age at conviction was 34 years. At least 56 percent of the crimes were property offenses, 11 percent were person crimes (including simple assault, aggravated assault, and robbery). Other crimes included DUIs and drug offenses.
Data was collected from the Centre County Probation Department using two separate case-management systems (at the state and county level). Additional information was collected from the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System. Information was collected on when payments were made and the amount paid toward each of the economic sanctions ordered for each offender. Information was collected for the first 6 months of the study, at 9 months after the study began, and at 12 months after the study began (i.e., after the first letter was sent out). The first letters were sent out on April 19, 2012, and the study ended in December 2012.
The outcomes of interest included the amount of restitution paid overall and by month, and the number of monthly payments. Attrition in the study was defined as letters that were sent back as undeliverable. Because the control group had no attrition (they received no letters), the differential attrition was addressed by analyzing the treatment groups using an intent-to-treat approach. Data on the restitution payments was analyzed using analysis of variance.