RACINE COUNTY — While Racine County residents on Monday were the last in the state to gain acess to a special crime victim-related service, they will become the first in Wisconsin to learn — in real time — when their restraining orders are served.
Cherie Griffin, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center of Racine, said Racine County will be the first to participate in a pilot program which notifies alleged victims when restraining orders are formally served on those they seek to prevent from contacting them.
“Information is power and in a crime such as domestic violence,” perpetrators try to wield that power over their victims. “This evens the playing field.”
State and local officials gathered at the Racine County Sheriff’s Office Monday to demonstrate a new service to help residents track offenders, and those accused of crimes, as they move through the Racine County Jail.
Racine County on Monday became the last Wisconsin county to receive access to the automated service, which provides crime victims and any interested residents with automated phone and email updates when an inmate is released or moved from the jail. The Wisconsin-Victim Information and Notification Everyday service is grant funded, and already used throughout Wisconsin and most other states.
Piggy-backing off the VINE service is the pilot program to notify when restraining orders and temporary restraining orders have been served. Pam Brandon, the WI-VINE program manager, said this program will take effect in June.
“The minute that injunction is served, we’re anticipating the deputies will enter (that information) into their squad computer,” Racine County Sheriff Chris Schmaling said.
More than 10,000 bookings are logged into the jail each year, Schmaling said, and more than 2,000 of those stem from domestic violence arrests.
After piloting the program in Racine County, Brandon said they plan to expand it throughout Wisconsin.
“People need to know if they were served,” to determine whether the person already is violating the order of protection should they spot the person across the street or near their home, said victims rights advocate Teri Jendusa-Nicolai.
Jendusa-Nicolai was beaten with a baseball bat by her ex-husband in early 2004. The Norway mother was left for dead in a garbage can, stashed in his storage unit in northern Illinois.
But she said domestic violence victims also need to know whether the restraining order has been served because that’s the period when the victim is most in danger, “in my experience.” Victims need to know whether the person has been released so they can put their safety plan into action, she said. “It’s so important to keep people informed as to what’s going on with their perpetrators,” she said. “People think if you have a restraining order you’re safe. But that’s not gonna keep you safe. That’s probably the most volatile time.”
Anyone interested in receiving automated notice of an inmate’s location change may call 1-(888) 944-8463 or log onto www.vinelink.com. Multiple phone numbers and email addresses may be registered anonymously, which automatically receive updates when the inmate is released, escapes, is transferred or there is any other change in his or her status.