Criminal Law

The VINE Network: An Automated Victim Notification and Information System

By John McCurley, Attorney
Read about the how the VINE (“Victim Information and Notification Everyday”) network keeps victims and concerned citizens abreast of offender status and location.

For obvious reasons, crime victims often want to keep tabs on the person who they were victimized by. Registering for VINE notifications is one way victims can stay informed about the location and status of an offender. VINE is an automated notification system that was designed to provide victims and their families with up-to-date offender information.

History of the VINE Network

In 1994, a Kentucky company (Appriss), created VINE in response to the murder of Mary Byron. Byron’s former boyfriend was released from jail shortly before he killed her. The man had previously been jailed on charges of kidnapping and raping Byron. When he was released on bail, no one notified Byron, her family, or local law enforcement.

How VINE Works

You can register for VINE notifications by going to the VINE website or calling a toll-free number specific to the area where the offender is incarcerated (available on the VINE site). Most states allow anyone to register for VINE notifications. However, there are states that limit who can get VINE access. In California, for instance, only victims, victims’ family, and witnesses who testified at the perpetrator’s trial are allowed to sign up for VINE notifications.

Selecting the Offender

When you register for VINE, you select the offender who you want to receive notifications about. All you need is the offender’s name or jail number. But you can also search with more specific information like birthdate, facility name, and age range. Specific information can be especially helpful when looking for an offender with a common name.

Notification Methods

Once you find the offender, you specify how you want VINE to notify you when a triggering event (see below) occurs. Available options vary by area, but often include:

  • mail
  • phone call
  • text message
  • TTY device, and
  • email.

When VINE Sends Notifications

VINE notifications differ by state and county. But typically, VINE sends automated notifications when the offender:

  • transfers to a different jail, prison, or other facility
  • is released, or
  • escapes.

However, many states also allow registrants to sign up for additional notifications. Arkansas’s VINE system, for example, sends notifications when an offender has an upcoming court date or parole hearing.

Limitations of VINE

Although VINE can often provide victims and concerned citizens with the information they’re looking for, the network has its limitations.

Federal Custody

VINE doesn’t get information about offenders who are in federal custody. So if a person is in a federal prison or U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility, VINE isn’t helpful. However, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and ICE have online inmate and detainee locators that provide some information.

Limited Availability in Some Areas

VINE provides offender information in all but two states—Maine and South Dakota. However, in some states that have VINE, it isn’t available statewide. In Arizona, for instance, VINE is accessible only in the Glendale and Tucson areas.

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