‘A landmark for violent crime victims:’ State unveils victim notification system

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Victims of violent crimes will face fewer uncertainties when the offenders who harmed them are up for parole under a new notification system spearheaded by an Alabaster state senator.

Ward

Ward

The AlabamaCAN – or Alabama Crime Victim Automated Notification system – was unveiled in Montgomery on Oct. 8 at Victims.alabama.gov. Through the system, victims and members of the public can enter their contact information, and can choose how they want to be notified of an offender’s upcoming parole hearing.

Those who enter their contact information in the system can be notified via email, text message or automated phone call.

The system replaced what state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said was an antiquated direct-mail system put in place in 1984.

“I passed a bill a few years ago to get the ball rolling on digitizing the notification system,” Ward said during an Oct. 9 interview. “Under the old system, if someone was in prison and they were coming up for parole, someone would have to physically look up and write a letter to notify the victims.

“Oftentimes, it was cumbersome, and in some cases it didn’t give the victims enough notice to actually make it to the parole hearing,” Ward added.

Under the old system, the state often did not attempt to locate and notify victims until about five or 10 years after the violent crime occurred. As a result, many victims’ contact information was outdated when the state first attempted to make contact with them.

“As (the Victims of Crime and Leniency group) said, it’s really a landmark piece of legislation,” Ward said. “I think it’s really going to afford victims more notice when a hearing is scheduled.”

The Board of Pardons and Paroles, the District Attorneys’ Association, Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center, Administrative Office of the Courts, Department of Corrections, Attorney General’s Office, Alabama Crime Victims Compensation, and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency served on the task force to develop the system. The Task Force also included crime victim advocates Darlene Hutchinson Biehl and Wanda Jones Miller, who were appointed by Attorney General Luther Strange.