Adair seeking to create victim fund

February 2, 2011 • Local News

A Roswell state senator’s proposed legislation that would support a statewide victim notification fund is making gains in the upper House. Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, is seeking to create a victim notification fund that would support the state’s Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) system.

The bill, which has the support of the New Mexico District Attorneys Association, cleared its first hurdle in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 26. “It’s state of the [auth] art technology,” Adair said.

“It notifies not only the victim, but victims’ families, attorneys (and the) media.” It’s the first time the lawmaker introduced the legislation that supports the program that automatically notifies interested parties on the current status of people charged with crimes.

An inmate’s hearing schedules, any kind of judicial proceeding and release date are just some of the examples of when the VINE system is used to contact individuals.

The bill would include a victim notification fee charged to inmates of no more than three cents per minute or 35 cents per telephone call. The legislation has the overwhelming support of state district attorneys, who say the program eliminates the need to manually notify victims.

“Victim advocates can then work on their other core responsibilities,” said Kelly Kuenstler, director of the New Mexico District Attorneys Association.

“Currently, victim advocates spend between 33 and 50 percent of their time manually notifying victims.” Janetta Hicks, Chaves County’s district attorney, says, “VINE is a tremendous tool to keep everyone involved in the criminal justice system informed of upcoming hearings and to notify victims when offenders are released from custody,” she said.

The bill’s next stop is the Senate Finance Committee. Similar legislation is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque.

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