In August the state judicial branch Office of Victim Services quietly rolled out the first phase of CT SAVIN, a free notification system designed to automatically inform victims of crime and other concerned citizens of the status of specific offenders in the criminal justice system.
On Wednesday Linda Cimino, director of the Office of Victim Services, held a training session in the state Legislative Office Building, where she presented a slideshow and discussed the services the system is already providing as well as what will be available after the other two phases of the program are completed.
The principal part of the program is an automated notification system that allows crime victims, or anyone else interested, to sign up for telephone or email alerts to update them on the status of a specific offender and their progression through the court and correctional system.
To illustrate the necessity for victim notification, Cimino used a tragic example from Kentucky that led to the establishment of Appriss, the software company behind the CT SAVIN system and its counterparts in 39 other states.
According to Cimino and the Appriss history webpage, the company was founded after the 1993 murder of Mary Byron by her ex-boyfriend. Byron had been raped and assaulted by her former boyfriend, who was arrested for the crimes.
However, unbeknownst to Byron, her attacker was released from prison after posting bail and later murdered her in her car on her 21st birthday.
“When Appriss heard that this happened in their community, they started creating this system,” Cimino said.
CT SAVIN’s implementation in Connecticut was also the result of terrible circumstances. It was developed as a result of Public Act 08-01, which was a collective response to the killings of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in 2007.
With the first phase of the program already in place, victims can now sign up to receive notifications at their phone number, which is kept confidential, Cimino said. These notifications require a user-generated pin number to confirm that they have been received; otherwise the system will continue to call until confirmation is made.
Cimino said it was important to remember that the system cannot interact with switchboards so users should only enter numbers that provide a direct line.
Cimino also noted that the calling system can be a bit “aggressive.” Users will be called every half-hour until the system makes contact, though calls are suspended between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. If the phone is answered but the correct PIN is not entered, it will call back every two hours until the number is entered. Notification calls come from a number with a 502 area code, from the company’s base in Kentucky, Cimino said. Email notifications are sent only once for each update, she said.
Notifications are sent for almost any development in a criminal case, Cimino said, including court events, violations of probations, changes in bail amounts, sentence reductions, transfers in jurisdiction, appeals, or if the offender fails to appear in court.
Users can sign up for the service by calling 877-846-3428 or by visiting www.vinelink.com and clicking on Connecticut on the map, Cimino said. From there, click on “Offenders with Court Cases” under the “Search and Register” section.
Cimino said that the more information the user has about the case, the easier it will be to sign up for notifications. For instance, if the user has the court docket number, entering the number in the “Case number” section will immediately bring up the correct case. However, it’s also possible to search by the offenders first and last name, though that is likely to bring up a broad number of results that the user can search through to find the case they are looking for.
When the last two phases are complete, sometime in the spring of 2011, Cimino said that CT SAVIN will be a one-stop place for visitors to find all the pertinent information on the cases they are interested in. The site will streamline information from courts, the Department of Corrections, victim’s advocates, and applicable law enforcement agencies.