For the past six years, crime victims across Virginia have been able to register with a statewide system to be notified upon a prison inmate's parole hearing, upcoming release or escape.
Every 15 minutes, the Victim Information and Notification Everyday system takes a snapshot of all 32,000 inmates in Virginia's state-run prisons.
But the notification network has not included the 23,000 offenders incarcerated in the 73 local and regional jails.
Now, said Gov. Tim Kaine (D), the system will be expanded over the next two-and-a-half years to include all inmates locked up in Virginia, whether in a state prison or local facility.
SPEAKING AT the Fairfax County Police Department headquarters in Fairfax Monday morning, Kaine said the expanded network will aid victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and other crimes to more easily keep track of the person who hurt them.
"This is going to be a very important tool for victims," said Kaine. "Having some knowledge of where that offender is will be absolutely critical."
Sen. Janet Howell (D-32) has been pushing for this initiative since 1993. It's taken 13 years to come to fruition, she said, because the technology has only recently made it viable and affordable.
"This is a day that been a long time coming," Howell said.
Surrounded by 30 Fairfax County sheriff's deputies, Sheriff Stan Barry (D) Ñ who oversees operations of the Fairfax County jail Ñ said he is eager to see the high-tech network implemented.
"Everybody in this room wants to protect the citizens of this state and this is a tool that will let us do that," Barry said.
Offenders are typically incarcerated in local jails for sentences of less than one year or while awaiting trial. If a person is sentenced to a prison terms of more than a year, they are sent to a state-run facility.
The system is funded by a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. It will be operated by Appriss Inc., a Kentucky firm that created the existing Victim Information and Notification Everyday network.
Forty other states currently have a notification system, though only 20 states include notification for prisoners in local and regional jails.
The expanded system is part of Virginia's history of implementing high-tech law enforcement tools, including early adoption of DNA evidence, the online sex offender registry and an Amber Alert system that notifies registered citizens when a child goes missing, Kaine said.
"With technology, the sky's the limit," Kaine said.