RALEIGH — A new statewide system is up and running to notify victims when their attackers get out of prison. The information is also easily available online.
After years of planning, the Crime Victims' Rights Act finally went into effect this month. It gives victims the right to be informed and to be part of the court process in most felony cases and domestic violence cases.
Both the state and the individual counties are working hard to make this program a reality.
"You don't think you're ever going to make it through it," says Janice Fletcher, whose brother was murdered in Raleigh five years ago. Her family got little support from the criminal justice system. She says the Crime Victims' Rights Act is a welcome change.
"When you have people to help you and encourage you along, it makes the difference in living your life to the fullest or just going through life," Fletcher said.
"What we want people to know is that we're actively reaching out to them," says Karen George with DOC Victims' Services.
The North CarolinaDepartment of Correctionhas started aWeb siteto give victims information about offenders. The DOC will also be notifying those hurt by crime about the status of their offenders.
"There are a lot of people out there who have wanted the information [and] have been very frustrated, and if you give them the smallest little bit of help, they are so tremendously grateful," George said.
Wake County gives victims a trial packet to help them understand the process. Since 1998, the county has increased its number of Victim Witness Assistants from three to 18.
"It's time that we factor victims into the criminal justice equation," says Alma Biagini with Wake County Victim Services. "They deserve respect, and they deserve fairness and dignity. They need to be part of the system."
The referendum to implement the Crime Victims' Rights Act was overwhelmingly passed by voters in 1996, but it took a long time to find funding.