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Victims notified when prisoners escape or are released

December 11, 2008|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- An automated notification system recently launched in Franklin County, Pa., can contact crime victims when jail inmates escape or are released.

Forty-five other counties in Pennsylvania use the Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification (SAVIN) system that can place calls to a victim's work, home or cellular phone. Other concerned residents also may sign up to track inmates.

"The purpose is to provide victims and their families with peace of mind," said Andrea Warner, a representative of the Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association.

Installation of the technology was funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) and Bureau of Justice Assistance. The PCCD will pay part of the annual maintenance fee through 2011.

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After that, the SAVIN system will cost the county four cents a day per inmate, according to Warner.

The jail had an average daily population of 335 in the first half of 2007, according to published reports. Using that number, the daily cost to the county would be $13.40, for a yearly cost of $4,891.

"The jail is a public safety entity. The Franklin County public is safer today thanks to this tremendous program," Warden John Wetzel said.

"My office is proud to be part of this collaborative effort ... to provide victims, their families and our communities an important empowerment tool in the fight against crime," said John Nelson, Franklin County district attorney.

Warner said the system works effectively because it reduces the burden on employees who are responsible for making notification calls. Those people could run into difficulties if a victim cannot be reached; the computer can constantly dial and redial all numbers.

"That more enables the victim to receive the information they need," she said.

SAVIN, which also can send e-mails, allows more people to be contacted, Warner said.

"Typically, the counties don't have the resources to call you and your best friends," she said.

SAVIN can handle an unlimited number of registered numbers, according to Warner.

The National Victim Notification Network generates about 700,000 notification calls each month, media documents stated.

To register, call 866-972-7284 or visit www.pacrimevictims.state.pa.us

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