A state program that allows crime victims to track criminals while they’re locked up has added all state prisons to its database. Attorney General Tom Miller says it’s called the "Iowa Victim Information and Notification System", or VINE.
Miller says the program allows families to know where the perpetrators are, if they are still in custody, and where at. He says they got a one and quarter-of-a-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to fund the program across the state. Miller says you can register and VINE will automatically call you when the criminal changes prison, or you can track their movements on-line.
Department of Corrections spokesman, Fred Scaletta, says VINE is the next step in expanding notification of victims. He says the department started notifying victims of prisoner changes by letter, and still does that today, but that notification has been limited to victims of violent offenses. Scaletta but this system extends the notification to many more victims. Scaletta says this system allow a wide range of people who were impacted by a crime to find out about the criminal.
Scaletta says that includes witnesses, a neighbor at the crime scene, an employer, a whole range of people who can be notified when a person moves from one prison to another. He says people can see if a prisoner is moving from a facility that’s high security to one that’s lower security and know that the person may be getting out soon.
The Vine system also includes 49 Iowa county jails and more are expected to be added in the coming weeks. Rod Fritz of Des Moines is one of the people who started using the system when it began operating in June of last year. Fritz’s son Cody was killed by a drunk driver on June 22 of 2005, and he says seeing that the man convicted of the crime is behind bars has helped him cope.
Fritz says he went to the website yesterday and punched in the man’s name and access number and the system told him the man was still in prison. Fritz says, "It made my heart feel at ease again, this is where he should be for the crime that he committed.
The Attorney General says the website is updated 19 times every day with state prison information and every 15 minutes with new county information. To find out more about the system, call 888-7-IA-VINE (428463) or go on-line to the Iowa Vine website.