The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 22, 2008

Cambria County joins prison notification network

EBENSBURG — Officials on Tuesday unveiled an 24-hour, automated notification system that will let crime victims know when offenders are released from the Cambria County Prison.

Such notifications have been made by the county prison since about 1995, but they have been a manual, time-consuming process for guards, Warden John Prebish said.

Now, Cambria joins 32 other counties statewide – including Somerset and Blair – that are linked to the computerized system, officials said.

By year’s end, all 63 county prisons in the state are expected to be on the system known as PA SAVIN, Pennsylvania’s Victim Notification Service.

The system, provided at no cost to the counties, is funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice through a joint project of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the state District Attorneys Institute.

“When an inmate is released, transferred or, God forbid, escapes, the victims will be notified (quickly),” District Attorney Patrick Kiniry said.

“It gives timely and accurate information to victims to make informed decisions,” said B.J. Horn, the PCCD’s victim services director.

Horn said victims will be able to prepare themselves for a chance encounter with an offender or to seek shelter elsewhere if necessary.

Because a victim’s relatives, friends and neighbors also may register for notification, the new system “increases the safety net for the victims,” she said.

A second grant is being sought to link the information of the county jails with that of state prisons that “hopefully will be seamless” so victims do not have to re-register when an inmate is transferred, she said.

Prebish said the county prison’s computerized list of inmates is linked with SAVIN, which automatically scans the county’s list every 15 minutes for any changes.

Victim advocates said they welcome the system, which can alert victims by phone or e-mail.

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