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VOCA funding allows enhanced victim notification system

By Morgan Hall

Frankfort, KY - Governor Andy Beshear and the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet announced today the Kentucky Department of Corrections has been awarded $551,000 in grant funding for significant enhancements to the state's victim notification system. The supplemental funding under the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), a federal grant program supporting direct assistance services to victims and survivors of all types of crimes, will help to enhance the VINE system platform and offer many new features for victims and victim service providers. These additional funds are from the VOCA grant KY received in FY2019.

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to provide automatic notifications to crime victims statewide when VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) was launched in 1996. It provides those who register for the free service, timely and reliable custody status updates via email, phone call and, with the new enhancements, text messages.

"My work as Attorney General - from arresting human traffickers and helping end the state's SAFE kit backlog, to creating a cold case unit that seeks justice for survivors of sexual assault - taught me that when it comes to providing services to victims, they needed to have a voice," said Gov. Beshear. "I want to thank everyone involved in making this system more victim-centered. VINE will still offer timely and potentially life-saving notifications about an offender in custody, but with the enhancements it will also help victims locate services they might need. Our state does not currently have a central database, website, or mobile application that compiles and categorizes services based on crime victimization. Enhanced VINE will provide that unified database."

According to a report from the 2014 Technology Summit for Victim Service Providers, fewer than one in 10 victims of serious violent crime receive assistance from a victim service agency, and less than half even report their experiences to the authorities. One of the main challenges victims face when needing support is the lack of access to a central catalog of services, which can make it difficult to find local resources. Simply put, many victims do not know who to call for help or what kind of help they need.

"VINE has been an integral part of the criminal justice system in Kentucky for nearly 25 years," said Corrections Commissioner Cookie Crews. "This technology can save lives and we are proud to now be able to fund much-needed enhancements."

VINE was born out of tragedy: the Louisville murder of Mary Byron on her 21st birthday in 1993. Mary was killed by an estranged boyfriend who she thought was still in jail on charges of raping, assaulting and stalking her. Mary's parents had requested to be notified of his release but that didn't happen. The Byrons were instrumental in the development of a system that would provide an automatic notification for victims. VINE is the flagship product of Appriss Insights, a Louisville-based company that provides a variety of data solutions in partnership with federal, state, and local government agencies while keeping close alignment to its roots as a service for victims and survivors of crime.

"VINE first began serving victims of crime more than 25 years ago in Kentucky's Jefferson County, and we are pleased to continue our partnership with the state by introducing this new suite of features to the VINE platform," said Josh Bruner, Executive Vice President of Victim Services at Appriss Insights. "Through Enhanced VINE, users are now able to benefit from a more streamlined experience and increased accessibility. Appriss Insights is proud to serve its home state of Kentucky and continue to support victims on their road to healing, recovery, and peace of mind."

Last year, Kentucky's VINE system made more than 421,000 notifications and received more than 100,000 new registrations. Other states who have migrated to the Enhanced VINE platform have seen a significant increase in notifications and registrants.

Key features of Kentucky Enhanced VINE:
  • An expanded mobile platform for a seamless web/mobile experience;
  • Voice-driven phone experience (in English) for victims to search via voice prompts for a faster and more intuitive means of service;
  • A heightened emphasis on confidentiality and security with the option of a password protected user account and a "quick escape" feature to quickly exit the application;
  • Victims can now create a personalized watch list, allowing them to gain updated information for more than one offender at a time;
  • The 'Help Guide Me' feature allows users to search for service providers by zip code or county as well as by type of service;
  • A comprehensive service provider network will be managed and screened by the Department of Corrections, Victim Services Branch, to communicate with victims/survivors who request assistance.
The new platform will take several months to complete and Enhanced Vine is expected to launch September 2021.

This story was posted on 2020-08-31 14:47:11
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