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ST. PAUL - The State of Minnesota is using Crime Victims Awareness week to unveil a new website and an enhanced phone notification system designed to keep crime victims up to date about incarcerated offenders in Minnesota.

The Minnesota CHOICE website ( ) connects victims to an offender database that is operated by the Minnesota Department of Corrections (DOC), enabling them to be notified of a change in offender's custody status, including release, transfer, escape, apprehension or death. Victims create an account by going to the CHOICE Website or calling the DOC Victim Assistance Program.

"The goal of Minnesota Choice is to make it easy for victims to get information about offenders," said CHOICE Program Manager Lydia Newlin. "This website allows victims to quickly find out about an offender's status whether they are incarcerated or on release."

VINE, or Victim Information and Notification Everyday, is a service that allows individuals to find information about an offender's custody status in county jails and to make a request to be notified about an inmate's release. VINE is managed by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs (OJP).

VINE focuses on serving the immediate needs of victims -- providing notice of an offender's release from a county jail or detention facility, which can follow soon after arrest. Conversely, CHOICE serves the long-term needs of victims whose offenders are incarcerated for longer period in DOC facilities.

VINE, launched in Minnesota in 2002, now has Hmong and Somali as the languages available through the VINE telephone service along with English and Spanish. In addition, the VINELink website service now can be accessed in Spanish. VINE materials are printed in all of the languages and are available for order with other OJP crime victim-related materials at .

"Victims have a right to know about their offender," says Jeri Boisvert, OJP executive director. "These two systems allow victims to get current information about their offender -- which affords a sense of personal safety and dignity."

The development of CHOICE and enhancements to VINE were made possible by a $368,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The Office of Justice Programs assists crime victims, and provides leadership and resources to reduce crime in Minnesota. For more information about Crime Victims' Rights Week and victim assistance, visit .

Crime Victims' Rights Week, April 10-16, is when crime victims and survivors, and those who serve them, join together to promote victims' rights and services, and to educate communities about the devastating impact of crime. This year's theme, "Honoring the Past, Reshaping the Future," is partly realized by the advancements in the state's victim notification systems.