The Montana Department of Corrections is expanding a notification system which allows victims of crimes to know the whereabouts of their offenders.
The Victim Information and Notification Everyday system, or VINE, allows victims to receive phone calls, texts or emails about changes in the custody status or location of any adult felony offender in the corrections system.
The system started tracking offenders on probation and parole late last year, which adds the movements of 84-hundred people to the system.
Corrections Department Director Mike Batista said Montana has been using the VINE program since 1989. All but three states participate in it. He said it allows victims to feel a sense of safety,
“If you’re a victim of a crime and have been through some traumatic situation, I think there is great peace of mind in knowing where offenders are located,” Batista said.
It started out where those registered could just call a 1-800 number. Today, that’s expanded to email, texting, and the state released a VINE app this past Summer. It’s not to be confused with another app called Vine, an offshoot of Twitter which allows people to share short videos. The state’s VINE app allows people to receive notifications about the movements of particular offenders.
Batista says it’s mostly victims who use the service, but anyone can sign up.
“There are other people, there are other users,” Batista said, “not only the general public, but also people who work in public safety…courts, law enforcement.”
You can find out a lot about offenders through the service, but Batista says it’s not anything that wasn’t already public record.
“We don’t include any protected information such as medical records, pre-sentence investigations where there’s a lot of background information, historical information about the offender, their family,” Batista said.
The state’s Vine system delivered nearly 30,000 messages last year.