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Arkansas VINE program helps public track criminal offenders

How really well do we know the neighbor who just moved in across the street? Or someone who just became an friend of our elderly parents, or another person who has contact with our children or grandchildren.

One such agency that can help the general public know more information so people can better protect themselves and their loved ones is known as the Arkansas VINE program. VINE stands for Victim Information & Notification Everyday.

Coordinator Michele Kulesa, who works for the VINE program, said she wants to inform the public on the benefits they can receive through VINE.

“I was hoping you could help me,” Kulesa said. “I am trying to reach out to local civic groups, church groups, neighborhood watches, etc. that may be interested in a presentation regarding VINE.”

She added, “This service notifies registrants on the status of offenders (escape, parole hearing, etc.), the status of parolee/probationers as well as criminal court cases involving subjects. You do not have to be a victim to register or benefit from this service.”

State law mandates that first responders, like police officers, advise victims of a crime the right to be informed of their offender’s movements. If people aren’t aware of this program, they can’t benefit from the information it offers.

VINE is not just for victims, but interested parties as well, so it may benefit a large number of people.

The Arkansas Crime Victim Information and Notification System allows anyone to check the location and status of offenders, and to register for notification of events related to a particular offender.

“Arkansas was the first state in the nation to implement an automated information and notification system that includes data from all county jails, some prosecuting attorneys, the Arkansas Department of Community Correction, and the Arkansas Department of Correction,” she said.

The Arkansas VINE system consists of a network of computers gathering information from each county jail, participating prosecuting attorney’s offices, the Department of Correction, the Department of Community Correction, and the Attorney General’s Office. The system captures information on an offender’s custody status and parole/probation status. The system also provides court event information on criminal cases handled by Prosecuting Attorneys. Victims, or interested persons, may register with the VINE system by using a touch-tone telephone or visiting the VINELink website at www.vinelink.com. Once registered, a victim will be notified of custody, parole/probation, and/or court case status changes on an offender. Victims may also use the VINE system to check on the status of an offender or case 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1-800-510-0415 or visiting the website at www.vinelink.com.

Here are several key points to the VINE system:

• Use of the Arkansas VINE System is free to everyone.

• The Arkansas VINE System will automatically call or email you if there is a change in the offender’s custody status, parole/probation status, and of upcoming court events or case status changes.

• All telephone registrations through the Arkansas VINE System are anonymous. You will be asked to choose a special PIN (Personal Identification Number) to acknowledge notifications from the system.

• You may register more than one telephone number. Each registered phone number must have a related PIN for that number.

• You can register against an Arkansas offender regardless of where you live in the country, but to register against other state offenders you would have to refer to that state’s VINE program.

• The VINE system calls every 30 minutes for a 24 hour period. If you are not at home when the VINE system calls with a notification, the service will leave a message and call back every two hours for a 24 hour period. If your email address is registered you will only receive one email containing the status change information of the offender you are registered against.

• You may call the VINE System as often as you want from any touch-tone telephone to check on an offender’s custody and court status, 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

• In 1997 the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 1250 which authorized the development of an automated victim information and notification system. This responsibility was placed on the Arkansas Crime Information Center (ACIC). The legislature also passed the “Arkansas Crime Victims Rights Law” which mandated that victims of crime be notified of certain events pertaining to an offender.

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