Something few people ever think about until they become a victim of violent crime is notification. What IS victim notification? How can Lubbock Victim Assistance Services, Inc. help with this?
What IS Victim Notification?
Victim notification is a process of keeping victims aware of changes in custody status of incarcerated perpetrators of violence. There are two key organizations which track and report on convicted perpetrators. These are:
- TXVINE: Victim Information and Notification Everyday
- ICAOS: Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision
TXVINE is the Texas Victim Information and Notification Everyday program. The VINE program began in Jefferson County, Kentucky after the murder of Mary Byron in December 1993. She had been killed by Donavan Harris just three weeks after his arraignment on charges he had kidnapped and raped her at gunpoint. He had been released on bail and she was entirely unaware of this fact as she warmed up her car after a long shift at J.C. Penney. Harris was waiting for her.
County Law Enforcement wondered why she had not been notified of his release. Her family wondered the same. Noting the reason for the lack of communication to be the lack of a system in place by which victims could be kept informed about potential dangers from attackers out on bail, bond, parole, or probation, local officials decided to change that. Using the best computer technology available at the time, they designed the system and launched the VINE Company in Louisville, KY in 1995.
Because VINE was the first of its kind, the concept grew rapidly.
Today, Texas VINE operates as part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. VINE provides notifications to victims of violent crime rgarding any important information related to their perpetrators case. By registering with TX VINE, victims are automatically notified of
- suspect/offender status
- court dates and changes to court dates
- release dates
- death of offender/suspect
- escape of offender/suspect
When any such information is available on a suspect or convicted offender, the automated TX VINE system will continue to try the victims phone number of record until it gets an answer and their unique four-digit PIN is entered or until 24-hours have lapsed. Notification may be in English or Spanish.
Further, if an offender is coming up for Parole, victims may personally meet with a Parole Board member if they believe the offender should not be provided early release.
The ICAOS, or Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision provides information to victims of crime pertaining to the transfer of convicted offenders between the states. Because the states noted that offenders on parole or probation may have a valid reason for relocating to a state other than the one with oversight, there was a need to continue supervision outside the original jurisdiction. To meet this need a compact was created among the states. That compact was rewritten in the last decade to better serve the needs of a modern society with the ICAOS the result.
Aside from keeping tabs on offenders traveling to another state for work or other reasons, the ICAOS keeps victims of crime informed.
How Can Lubbock Victim Assistance Services, Inc Help Victims of Violent Crime?
LVAS helps victims of violent crime in many ways including helping them arrange notification services such as through TX VINE and ICAOS.
When someone has become a victim of a violent crime, most would like to see the offender never released from custody. However, that is simply not the way things happen in our society. Once a convicted criminal, violent or otherwise has served the time sentenced or has been paroled or pardoned for any reason, they are released to live among the general population once again.
Hopefully, that person will never commit a similar act of violence, but sadly, many do, often returning to their earlier victims. Because of this sad fact of American life, victims not only have a right to know about the custody status of their offender, but also a right to take steps to protect themselves. If an offender seeks relocation near the victim that could be a sign they are planning retaliation of some sort.
TX VINE, the ICAOS, and Lubbock Victim Assistance Services work together to ensure that offenders do not have access to their victims in the South Plains. But victims must do their part by enrolling in notifications and keeping track of the offenders as well. By everyone working together, we can keep victims from becoming victims again at the hands of the same offender. That is the purpose of Victim Notification.