Carroll crime victims will get fast notice of prisoner's release Pilot program will begin in 2 counties in 90 days

March 31, 1997|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Crime victims in Carroll County who fear retaliation will learn in as little as two hours whether their assailants have been released from custody, authorities say.

A six-month pilot program, Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE), is expected to be up and running in Carroll and Montgomery counties within 90 days.

"It's an automatic notification project made possible through grants from the state's Crime Control and Prevention Office," said Shirley Haas, director of Carroll's Victim Witness Assistance Unit in the state's attorney's office.

Under the program, victims who register with the Kentucky-based organization will be notified within two hours if an assailant has been released from custody, said Lt. Barry Green, who helps operate the system for the Department of Corrections for Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky.

"If the victim cannot be reached by telephone -- actual contact is confirmed through a four-digit code, or personal identification number -- the system will continue to call every two hours until contact is made," Green said.

The computerized system is updated every 10 minutes and victims may call to obtain information on the status of a prisoner 24 hours a day, Green said.

Haas said the state grants -- about $13,000 for computer equipment and $6,000 for service and maintenance -- will get the program started in Carroll and Montgomery counties. The program will be evaluated in six months by the governor's office.

If feedback from the pilot counties is favorable and a permanent source of funding is found, the VINE system may be implemented statewide, state officials said.

The VINE system grew from a Kentucky judge's frustration with the lack of notification there and a resulting murder. A Louisville woman, who was severely beaten by a boyfriend, was murdered two days after the man was released from jail.

Green said about 600 victims in six states -- California, Florida, New Jersey, Missouri, Texas and Kentucky -- are registered with the VINE system.

Notification of victims became mandatory in Maryland in October, Haas said.

The VINE system, Haas said, will hasten the notification process, providing faster access to prisoner information that is continually updated.

"Even before then, we had been notifying victims in Carroll County," Haas said. "As soon as we learn of a change in a prisoner's status, we try to contact victims by phone and mail follow-up letters, but some of them don't have telephones and a letter could arrive too late."

Computer equipment at Carroll County's detention center, the Circuit Court clerk's office, the state's attorney's office, and the state District Court office in Annapolis will be linked in a network with the VINE system.

Cooperation between these agencies will ensure that notification is accurate and swift, Haas said. She said her office will seek funds to continue covering operating costs as soon as the VINE system is in place.

Pub Date: 3/31/97

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