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Editorial: Concerns about budget cuts warranted

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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

It’s no secret that the state of Indiana is trying to be smarter with its money during this roller-coaster ride sometimes called the great recession. It’s behaving just like every other state in the union and every citizen of the republic.

Lawyers are no exception; the practice of law ultimately is a business. So you’ll doubtless be familiar with the phrase “trimming the budget to the bone.”

Well, we believe the state of Indiana has hit bone with a budget cut instituted earlier this month. You can read about the change regarding victim notification in a story that starts on Page 3 of this issue of the newspaper.

Spending only $375,000 annually on something that the state had spent $1 million a year on sounds like a smart fiscal decision on paper.

In reality, victims and their lawyers are worried. While it is too early to determine the effectiveness of the Department of Correction's move to bring victim notifications in house rather than utilizing the previous system, it doesn’t appear to be off to a smooth start.

Previously, the state had contracted with a company called Appriss, which operated the Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry and Alert Notification Services. The company handled 10,000 monthly automated phone calls to victims who had asked to be notified of changes in their perpetrator’s status, and processed 2,500 new registrants per month. The former service also could make automated phone calls and send e-mails in multiple languages.

Now this service is being performed by the DOC through Microsoft’s Information Strategies. Phone calls are being made by three DOC employees during regular business hours, with support on nights and weekends by other DOC staffers. The DOC stresses that the service has the potential to be more personal as victims will be able to talk with a real person and ask questions, which would be a big improvement over an automated call or an e-mail. The DOC can make the phone calls in Spanish and has access to a translation service for other languages.

But the experiences of lawyers for victims who have registered with the system seeking notification about offenders tell another story.

One advocate called the DOC after receiving notice of the system change, only to get a message that the line was busy and to try calling later. The advocate did that and talked to a DOC employee who was “nice and polite” but lacked information to answer the advocate’s questions.

This lawyer also told our reporter that she has registered against seven offenders in Marion County. She had not received an immediate notification of their release, even though she was able to confirm on her own they had been released. Another lawyer who had also registered against an offender got an e-mail notification of the offender’s release, but didn’t get the requested phone call until three hours later.

This may sound like merely a bumpy start over something that has the potential to save the state $625,000, and that is a great deal of money, particularly when viewed through the lens of our current economic condition.

But this is truly a life and death situation, and the state is putting a price tag on the lives of victims with this move. In domestic violence and domestic battery cases, the potential for more bloodshed that could escalate into a lethal situation is at its highest when the perpetrator is released from jail.

The state must prove right now, not a month or six months from now, that this move will not only result in cost savings, but in a victim notification system that some of its most vulnerable citizens can depend upon.•
 

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  1. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

  3. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  4. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  5. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

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