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By Archie Ingersoll, Published March 13 2009

Grand Forks County has new system to alert crime victims when an inmate is released, transferred or escapes

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Grand Forks County now has an automated system to alert crime victims — and anyone else concerned — when an inmate is released, transferred or escapes.

The system sends an e-mail or persistently calls those who have registered, if there’s news about a certain inmate.

“As a correctional facility, we do our best to always notify the victim when somebody’s going to be released, but we cannot continue to hold them just because we cannot get a hold of a victim,” jail administrator Brett Burkholder said Thursday. “It’s a system like this that’s an additional resource, so that we have multiple ways to get a hold of the victims.”

Victims already receive phone calls and letters from staff when specific inmates are released, but this system — known as SAVIN or Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification Service — streamlines the process, said Amy Vorachek, who’s managing the program for North Dakota.

The system will keep calling a victim for up to 24 hours until they dial a four-digit personal identification number. In more urgent situations, the system will call for up to 48 hours.

SAVIN users also can call (866) 631-8463 or visit www.vinelink.com to find out if someone is behind bars.

“This is really a service that if a victim has anxiety or somebody has anxiety, they can really go online or they can call this number and get the information that they desperately need and put their mind to rest,” she said.

Vorachek said the service is free, confidential, operates around the clock and allows people to register several e-mails and phone numbers to receive information about multiple inmates.

The Grand Forks County Correctional Center is among a handful of jails in North Dakota that have launched SAVIN. The others are in Mercer, Barnes and Richland counties and in Rugby, Vorachek said.

The Department of Corrections, including the State Penitentiary and the Parole and Probation Division, is scheduled to implement SAVIN by the end of April, she said.

By the end of October, SAVIN should be in use in jails and courts statewide, encompassing protective orders and sex offender notices, she said.

Every state except South Dakota, Kansas, Maine and Connecticut has implemented SAVIN to some extent, according to the Web site that administers the program.

Minnesota has had the system for about six years, said Burkholder whose last job was deputy administrator of the Crookston jail.

Vorachek said the money for the program comes from federal grants matched by state funds.

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.