The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Victim Services Division is introducing a new information management system that provides crime victims and their supporters with round-the-clock access to information about offenders in TDCJ custody or on parole/mandatory supervision, along with automatic notifications of changes in their offender’s status.
The Integrated Victim Services System (IVSS) replaces both the Victim Notification System (VNS), which served more than 200,000 registrants, and the Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) notification system which produced thousands of notifications every year. The IVSS also automates the request procedures for Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse publications, training and other resources, and creates new communication features for Victim Offender Mediation Dialogue program case management.
The IVSS public portal allows victims, victim advocates, criminal justice professionals and concerned citizens to create an account, update contact information, set notification preferences, review past notifications, locate victim support services and, whenever they want, find certain information about offenders supervised by TDCJ’s Correctional Institutions Division (CID) or the Parole Division (PD). Registrants can choose to receive notification by email, text message, letter and, in some cases, automated phone calls. Notification events include, but are not limited to, when an offender enters the parole review process, is processing for release, or discharges a sentence, and when parolee warrant actions occur. Users can also access the portal to view all their recent messages.
The portal includes a directory of service providers, useful for anyone who might need to find shelter or find other support for crime victims. When on a crime scene, law enforcement and victim advocates can search for help based on geographic area, type of service organization, service needed or type of crime that’s been committed.
At a recent meeting of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, TDCJ Executive Director Bryan Collier cited the IVSS’s development and implementation as one of the agency’s top achievements for 2018: “The IVSS puts us at a very high bar. I think we have the best victim services division in the country, but our new software system is at the top. Other states have been asking ever since we began the process and I think you’ll see this system rolled out across the country based on what we’ve learned in Texas.”
The new IVSS enables VSD staff to easily access, sort and export client service information, giving grant funding organizations quick proof the agency is meeting its client-service goals. Such information, which can now be accessed in minutes, took days to generate using the old system, whose database formats were incompatible with widely used programs like Excel and Outlook and often required an outside vendor to operate, costing both time and money.
The IVSS also allows for customization of automatic notification schedules, and templates can be adapted to keep up with changes in notification laws. Victim assistance coordinators and prosecutors should find the IVSS much easier to use than the old system, and victim impact activity reporting is expected to improve.
Development of the new system began when an analyst from the Information Technology Division examined VSD’s information management process and identified areas needing improvement. Potential solutions were reviewed until a system was found that fulfilled the agency’s needs. Through the cooperation and hard work of VSD, ITD and the Business and Finance divisions, the IVSS system was acquired and implemented in only three months.
TBCJ Chairman Dale Wainwright commented on the significance of the IVSS: “The Department has four missions: to provide public safety, promote positive change in offender behavior, reintegrate offenders into society, and to assist victims of crime. It is one of our four missions. This is critical. It’s a priority and, on behalf of the Board, bravo for the work done. It’s another example of how this is an outstanding department and agency. We don’t tread water; we’re continuing to get better. Keep up the good work.”
Registrants with the now-retired Victim Notification System will continue to receive notifications based on their old preferences and will receive an email invitation to create a new IVSS portal account. If you would like to register for the IVSS, visit https://ivss.tdcj.texas.gov, call the VSD office at (800) 848-4284 or send an email to email@example.com. All IVSS registration information is kept confidential.