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State changes victim alerts

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The Indiana Department of Correction recently changed how it will notify those who register to find out where someone is in the system, whether it’s a transfer from one jail to another, a change in status, or a legal hearing.

Some advocates were not happy with how they were notified of the change shortly before the July 1 date and that they had no say in the process, including the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and the Domestic Violence Network, who sent a letter to their partner agencies and advocates around Indiana in late June.

Brent Myers, director of registration and victim services for the DOC, said things have been running smoothly since the transition, and he has been working with advocates, sheriffs, prosecutors’ offices, and others who come into contact with victims to let them know of the changes.

Included in his communication efforts are marketing materials for those who come into contact with victims, although Laura Berry Berman, executive director of the ICADV, said she had yet to receive anything as of July 13. Myers said those materials were in process and would be distributed in mid-July.

Myers said there were four main reasons for ending their contract with Appriss for Indiana SAVIN, Indiana Sex and Violent Offender Registry, and Alert Notification Services (VINE), which provided notification to victims. The reasons they switched to an in-house system are: to serve more, spend less; to personalize the notification process; to improve information flow to victims, law enforcement, and other justice partners; and to leverage current technology.

The new system is online at http://indianasavin.in.gov.

Myers said the contract with Appriss cost about $1 million per year, and this program will cost $375,000 per year by bringing it in house and using the Microsoft program Information Strategies.

Part of the need to save money was there was no dedicated budget for the notification system, he said.

“There’s no specific line item other than victim assistance, and that does not cover the operational costs as the program was implemented, so we had to look for other funding sources. Toward the end of last summer, we were introduced to Microsoft and their preferred partner, Information Strategies through the Indiana Office of Technology,” Myers said.

He said another goal of the new system is to provide better communication with victims. Under both systems, victims can choose to receive e-mail or phone-call alerts regarding the status of an offender.

Under the old system, victims would receive an automated call, yet the new system will offer a call from a real person so the victim can ask any questions he or she might have at that time.

This is particularly helpful, Myers said, when the call is regarding a hearing where, instead of only telling the victim there will be a hearing, the person calling from the DOC can tell the victim what it could mean. In some cases, he added, the caller could explain to the victim that there was a new criminal charge, a clarification, or a sentencing modification.

However, advocates are cautious about how the personalized calls will work, Berman said.

For one, she and other advocates have expressed concern regarding victims who do not speak English as a first language, as the Appriss system could make automated calls and send e-mails in multiple languages.

Myers said he was aware of the concern, and the DOC could make calls in Spanish, and could use a translation service for non-English speaking victims.

Berman also was concerned about how much training the callers had received, at least early on in the transition, and whether three callers would be enough, as the DOC had specified to victims advocates.

“Our concern on victim notification is VINE was making 10,000 auto phone call attempts per month, and registering 2,500 new registrants per month,” she said, adding she was unsure whether three callers Monday through Friday during business hours and support staff during evenings and weekends would be able to keep up with those requests.

Berman added she had called the DOC after receiving an automatic e-mail that went to all subscribers under the old system July 1, and received a message that the line was busy and to try calling back later.

When she called at a later date to request information on someone she knew had been booked in and out of jail, she said the person who answered was “very nice and polite” but didn’t seem to have the information she needed.

Because she and other advocates are unsure of the new system, they’ve been suggesting to other advocates to call the jail commander if they know where an offender has been booked because the sheriffs will know and will give the information to victims, and to continue enrolling in the system.

She added some jail commanders have been calling victims on their own when an offender is released.

However, she wasn’t quite at the point of trusting the new system, especially in cases where there was a risk of lethality for a domestic violence victim if the offender would soon be released.

“I have registered against seven offenders in Marion County, one of the counties that is online,” she said in an interview July 13. “As of this morning, two have been released, and I never received a notification. One was released July 8 and still no notice. And no notification on the other one who was released July 9.”

She said another advocate she knew had also registered against offenders, but that advocate who requested phone and e-mail notice got an e-mail notice, but didn’t receive a phone call until three hours after release.

“In domestic violence and domestic battery cases, we’re talking about some of the most lethal situations where the person is going back to a home where the violence occurred. If the victim is at home and not in shelter, and thinks the offender is incarcerated and that they will be notified when the offender is released, there is a risk of further violence, even a risk of death,” she said.

Kerry Hyatt Blomquist, legal director of ICADV, added that not only domestic violence victims use the notification system.
 

kerry blomquist Blomquist

“I know a fair number of judges, attorneys, and public personalities who are affected by this,” she said. “Not just domestic violence victims, but people who’ve been stalked, judges who’ve been threatened … anyone who’s been a victim of a crime in the VINE system.”

Myers said the DOC will continue to improve the new system and that he is aggressively working with vendors for the booking systems to get more jails online. While there was no specific timeline for all jails to be online, specifications were released in mid-July to vendors, and he hoped by Aug. 1 that many of the local jails would be integrated into the new system.

He also said the DOC is encouraging feedback – positive and negative – through the website, http://indianasavin.in.gov.•

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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