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Crime Victims Now Can Keep Track of Corrections Inmates with “IowaVINE”

The victim information and notification system tracks the custody status of offenders. Victims can obtain information 24 hours per day, 365 days per year --
and can ask to be notified immediately if an offender’s custody status changes.
About 8700 Iowa Dept. of Corrections inmates now are on the system.

The “IowaVINE” system – a victim information and notification system for crime victims that tracks the custody status of criminals who have been arrested or convicted -- has just expanded to include persons in the system of the Iowa Department of Corrections, Attorney General Tom Miller announced Friday.

The IowaVINE system was launched last year, but it only included selected county jails around the state. “Adding Corrections is a huge step forward,” Miller said. “It means about 8700 more offenders are covered by the IowaVINE system,” he said.

“IowaVINE is a powerful tool that offers information, notification, and peace of mind for crime victims. It’s a superb service for crime victims,” he said.

“Crime victims can call in or log on any time, any day, for up-to-date information on an offender’s status,” he said. “Just call 888-7-IAVINE, or go to www.vinelink.com. It’s easy, it’s quick, it’s free, and it’s reassuring for victims,” Miller said.(Go to: IowaVINE brochure.)

Victims also can register for virtually immediate notification when an offender’s custody status changes, such as release, escape, transfer, or death. Persons may register for e-mail notification by going to www.vinelink.com. Persons may register for telephone notification by going to the web site or calling 888-7-IAVINE. In a telephone notification, IowaVINE will continue calling for up to 48 hours or until the person enters a PIN code to confirm receiving the notification. (Go to: example of IowaVINE notification call.)

When Miller unveiled the IowaVINE system last June, 23 Iowa counties and their jails were on the system. “We are up to 49 counties now, including three added this week,” Miller said -- Benton, Chickasaw and Delaware Counties. Miller estimated that about two-thirds of Iowans live in counties now covered by IowaVINE.

Miller said the IowaVINE system already has had over 69,000 “hits” – where Iowans contacted the system by phone or on-line to check the status of offenders. (There were 69,528 hits on-line via www.VINElink.com, and 1,854 by phone.) Miller said about 1700 Iowans also have registered with IowaVINE to receive virtually instant notification when an offender’s status changes, such as transfer, release, escape, or death of an offender.

“IowaVINE works for crime victims, and it makes our work easier to serve victims,” Miller said. “We are especially glad that the Dept. of Corrections is now on the system.”

Miller was joined at a news conference Friday by Fred Scaletta, Public and Media Relations Director and Supervisor of the Office of Victim and Restorative Justice Programs for the Iowa Department of Corrections, and Rod Fritz of Des Moines – whose 19-year-old son was killed in a drunk driving crash in June 2005. Fritz told how important it is for victims, or survivors of homicide victims, to keep track of the status of offenders.

John Baldwin, Director of the Iowa Dept. of Corrections, said in a statement: “The Department of Corrections is excited and pleased to participate in the IowaVINE victim notification program. The opportunity for all victims as well as all parties affected or impacted by crime to receive automated notice of offender status and movement only enhances our mission to protect and serve victims in the most respectful and responsible manner possible. We are extremely grateful to the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division for their leadership and support in the planning, development and implementation of this project.”

“It is a matter of peace of mind for victims to know that they can access up-to-date information about an offender,” Miller said. “Sometimes it is a matter of safety to be automatically notified if an offender is released or escapes, and if he or she may pose an immediate danger. Victims know what an offender is capable of and deserve this service to help them stay informed.”

“IowaVINE is another huge step forward for Iowa victims of violent crime,” Miller said.

Additional background and detail:

The 49 counties now on IowaVINE (in order of joining) are: Story and Scott 12/06; Grundy, Boone, and Pottawattamie 1/07; Warren, Hamilton, Johnson, Polk, and Sioux 2/07; Cherokee, Muscatine, Jasper, and Appanoose 3/07; Woodbury, Clay, Carroll, and Bremer 4/07; Black Hawk, Lyon, and Dubuque 5/07; Webster, Buena Vista, Dallas, Marion, and Lucas 6/07; Page, Audubon, Tama, and Louisa 7/07; Emmet, Plymouth, Adair, and Butler 8/07; Cedar, and Howard 9/07; Jones, Humboldt, Mills, and Buchanan 10/07; Wayne, Fayette, Clarke, and Wright 11/07; Adams, and Shelby 12/07; and Benton, Chickasaw, and Delaware 1/08. Forty-nine more counties have signed on to join the IowaVINE system by the end of 2008. [Go to map of Iowa counties up on IowaVINE (as of 1-29-08). Note: several counties come up each month. Go to www.vinelink.com for updated list of counties.]

VINE was created about a dozen years ago by Mike Davis, founder and president of Appriss, the Louisville, KY-based company that is providing the automated system used by IowaVINE and other states. Davis created the VINE system after a woman was shot and killed by her ex-boyfriend in Kentucky. The killer had been in jail accused of sexual assault against the woman. The Sheriff assured her that she would be notified if the offender left custody. But, the offender posted bail, silently stalked her for several days, then shot her to death on her 21st birthday at her car outside her workplace. She was never notified of his release.

Appriss provides victim-service-trained live telephone operators 24/7/365, in addition to the automated telephone and on-line information and notification service. Phone, online, and operator services are available in both English and Spanish and operators use Language Line to provide the service in an additional 400 languages.

IowaVINE is a service of the Crime Victim Assistance Division of the Attorney General’s Office. The system is being established under a $1.25 million grant from the Office for Justice Programs of the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

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More Questions and Answers about IowaVINE:

Go to: IowaVINE brochure.

What if I believe I am at risk from an offender?

  • Do not depend solely on IowaVINE for protection from the offender. If you feel you may be at risk, contact your local law enforcement agency to report concerns, or your local crime victim service program for support and to create a safety plan.

What does IowaVINE do?

  • IowaVINE provides INFORMATION about an inmate or offender's apprehension, transfer, release, escape, or death.

  • IowaVINE also provides AUTOMATIC NOTIFICATION to crime victims (or other interested parties) about changes in an offender's custody status.

How can I get INFORMATION from IowaVINE?

  • Go to www.vinelink.com and get custody status and location information on-line about the inmate or offender. (It’s a simple as entering the offender’s name.) Or, . . . .
  • Call IowaVINE at 888-7-IAVINE (888-742-8463) to receive information through an automated information system. You also can press zero to speak with a trained IowaVINE operator at any time.

How can I get NOTIFICATION from IowaVINE?

  • To register your telephone number for notification, either call IowaVINE at 888-7-IAVINE, or go to www.vinelink.com. (“Search” for the offender, then click on “details.”) To register your e-mail address, you must go to www.vinelink.com.

  • You may register to receive notification at multiple phone numbers, including cell phones.

  • You will choose a personal identification number (4-digit PIN code) for telephone notification.

  • When IowaVINE calls your phone number(s), you will enter your PIN code to confirm that you received the notification. IowaVINE will continue calling until you enter your PIN code (up to 48 hours.) If an answering machine answers, IowaVINE will leave a message and continue calling until you enter your PIN code or 48 hours passes.

Other IowaVINE facts:

  • IowaVINE is anonymous. An offender will not know if you are registered with IowaVINE or if you seek information about an offender.

  • Trained IowaVINE operators are available at all times – 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. Assistance is available in more than 200 languages.

  • If your phone number or e-mail address changes, you will need to re-register with IowaVINE.

What if an offender is not found on the IowaVINE system?

  • For offenders in a county jail that is not yet on the IowaVINE system, call the county jail. (It is hoped that almost all Iowa counties will be linked to IowaVINE in 2007.)

  • Federal inmates are not on the VINE system. Go to the Federal Victim Notification System (VNS) Call Center at 1-866-365-4968 (1-866-DOJ-4YOU), or access the VNS Internet site at www.notify.usdoj.gov.

What are some other sources of information about a criminal case or offender?

  • For information about a criminal investigation, contact the investigating law enforcement agency.

  • For information about a criminal prosecution, and to register for additional notification rights, contact the case prosecutor or the County Attorney's Office.

What are other sources of crime-victim information and support?

  • Crime Victim Compensation Program, Iowa Attorney General’s Office, 515-281-5044 or 800-373-5044.

  • Iowa Domestic Abuse Hotline, 800-942-0333.

  • Iowa Sexual Abuse Hotline, 800-284-7821.