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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. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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