One thing that sets VINE apart is its knowledgeable and helpful product training team. VINE is the nation’s largest victim notification platform, and Karen Adams and Jared Beek have years of experience helping VINE users get even more comfortable with the service. Karen and Jared are committed to helping users learn the interface quickly and equipping victims on their journey toward safety and peace of mind. They are training users in the VINE service on a near-daily basis, and they’ve heard a lot of questions along the way. In this conversation, Jared and Karen address some of the most frequently asked questions about VINE … and tell a little bit about themselves!
What is VINE and how did it come about?
Karen: VINE is an information and notification delivery system focused on an entirely new experience for victims of crime. The tragic death of Mary Byron was the driving force behind the creation of VINE. Mary Byron was a young woman living here in Louisville, Kentucky. She had just ended her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and was trying to move on with her life. However, Mary’s ex-boyfriend began stalking her, and eventually assaulted her in the basement of her parents’ home. Mary was able to get him to leave, and immediately told her parents what had happened.
Mary’s parents had her ex-boyfriend arrested by our local police department. Mary’s parents also asked to be notified if anything changed so that they could get Mary to safety. On Mary’s 21st birthday, she got off work and got into her car. Because it was a cold night, she waited for it to warm up. What Mary didn’t know was that her assailant had been bailed out of jail by one of his family members. He approached her car and fired several shots into the driver’s side, killing Mary instantly. Mary’s heartbroken parents, Pat and John Byron, were left wondering how this happened and how this could have been prevented. They turned their grief into action and began working with local officials in hopes of keeping other families from experiencing this kind of tragedy. One year later, VINE was developed specifically to reduce the risk of these incidents everywhere.
How does all that data go into VINE?
Karen: The success of VINE relies on a VINE Workflow, beginning with booking records. After the arrest, booking occurs. Appriss maintains over 2,900 information system interfaces with state and county agencies, such as jail and prison booking systems, courts, prosecutors, police departments, and Departments of Correction. These interfaces keep incarceration data updates flowing between the agencies and the VINE Technology Platform so that victims can receive real-time notifications on offender custody status. Once booking data is entered into a jail management system interfacing with VINE, Appriss uses the incarceration data to power its nationwide victim notification services in 48 states. That same data is also used by over 20,000 law enforcement officers to access the information for ongoing criminal investigations.
In addition to offender custody status, VINE Courts and VINE Protective data is also being provided in various states.
What is VINELink, and how does it relate to VINE?
Karen: VINELink is the public portal that gives crime victims complete control and choice, along with their families, to identify and work collaboratively with victim service providers and allied professionals. VINE has new and enhanced features available to incorporate self-service functionality and provide victims with the ability to select preferred pathways of communication.
If someone has used VINELink before, what new things do they need to know about?
Jared: Our teams are constantly working on ways to enhance or improve VINE for all our users. One recent feature we launched is a “New in VINE” menu option to every state landing page. This communicates improvements, new features, as well as major announcements or previews of features that are coming soon. When there’s new content for you to view, you’ll see a blue dot next to the menu option to indicate there’s unread material. This will be your best tool for staying up-to-date on VINE!
Why can’t I find the offender or court case I am searching for?
Jared: All the information in VINE is based on our connections to booking and court case management systems. Once a jail, prison, or court system enters their information, VINE is automatically updated based on the information we receive through that connection to their system.
There are actually a few reasons you may not find an inmate or a court case in VINE.
- The agency may be offline. Occasionally, there may be an interruption to the connection between the agency and VINE (system upgrades, power outages, etc.), and so the offender information cannot be entered until that connection is restored.
- The inmate may be in federal custody or immigration custody. The Department of Justice has a separate system for federal offenders (DOJ VNS), as does the Department of Homeland Security for offenders in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody (DHS-VINE). Both these systems are separate from VINE and do not share their information in VINE.
- They are in a non-participating agency. While VINE is available in the majority of the US, some states and/or counties do not currently submit information to VINE. (For example, both Maine and South Dakota currently do not participate in VINE.)
If you are unable to locate an offender, try contacting the facility directly.
How do I set up notifications for VINELink?
Jared: To receive notification on an update to an inmate’s custody status or upcoming hearings and other events for court case information, you first need to search for that offender or court case in VINE. You can do this by calling your state’s toll-free number, accessing our website (VINELink.com), or downloading and searching through the free VINELink mobile app.
From your search, you can choose “Get Notified.” You’ll be able to select from several different notification methods, including receiving updates by phone, text, email, or teletypewriter. During the registration, you can choose to be notified at any combination of the methods listed, and can also add others who may need to receive the notification, as well (friends, family members, victim advocates, case workers, etc.)
After you’ve selected how you’d like to be notified, it’s as simple as confirming and saving! Then, any time there is an update to that custody record or court case record, you’ll get an automatic notification.
What is your professional background? How did each of you end up working with VINE?
Karen: My professional background includes in-depth experience in functional areas of Human Resources, such as onboarding, benefits, compliance, and training. Back a few years ago, a colleague mentioned how he was working part time at this great company called Appriss. He thought I might want to do the same. So, I did! Within two years of working part time on the weekends (2nd shift) for Appriss as a VSR (VINE Service Representative, now known as a CFC Agent), I knew Appriss was where I wanted to further my career. When Client Relations posted a Learning Specialist position, back in 2008, the position aligned with my skills and experience. And I said “so long” to a 20-year career in Louisville Metro Government and started working full time for Appriss.
Jared: I’ve had a few different roles — from retail to higher education enrollment management to “archives assistant” (read: digging through refuse to find rare items of value for a donated collection) — but my passion was always for teaching and training. A couple years ago, I was looking for a career change and knew a few colleagues from a previous company that were now working for Appriss. I talked with one of them about how they liked Appriss, did a little of my own research, and knew I had to be part of this mission. I was very lucky that the stars aligned at just the right moment and a role with a focus on training for VINE had just opened. From there, the rest is history.
What is your specific role in VINE training? What does your day-to-day look like?
Karen: In my role as Appriss Insights Training Manager, in addition to managing our training resources, I partner with the Client Relations team to determine the best strategic training plan for our VINE states. Training plans include prioritizing national and state victim services and law enforcement conference presentations, awareness and education trainings, and the scheduling of nationwide and state specific webinars throughout the year for our VINE Program Managers, community advocates and service providers, law enforcement and criminal justice personnel. I’m also equipping SMEs with content development and training skills, as part of my initiative to collaborate across teams. Their knowledge is contributing to the enhancement of our nationwide webinars, broadening the reach of our VINE education.
Jared: As the VINE Marketing and Training Specialist, I straddle the line between training and marketing content, so my day-to-day can vary quite a bit. However, most days see me working on ways to market upcoming trainings to their intended audiences, developing content for our new YouTube channel (scripting, recording, etc.), creating or updating training materials for upcoming training sessions, or delivering training through one of our various formats.
What drew you to this role on the VINE training team?
Karen: A combination of my commitment to providing exceptional customer service to employees, the Louisville community, and the victim-centered approach gained as a VSR.
Jared: The mission. Helping raise awareness of this resource for victims and survivors and how it can keep them informed and empowered was such a unique opportunity that I was very excited to be a part of.
What is most invigorating about helping survivors through VINE?
Karen: What’s most invigorating is knowing that throughout our VINE awareness and education efforts, we’ve received numerous heartfelt testimonials from our session attendees on how they and their agencies value the work done by Appriss to provide resources to victims. Just seeing firsthand how much the work of each Appriss team member contributes to VINE’s success is exciting!
Jared: For me, it is knowing that not only are we can provide peace of mind to someone when everything else around them may seem to be falling apart, but also that we are genuinely saving lives. Shortly after I started, we had a local news story here of a woman who received a notification about her ex-partner and was able to quickly enact her safety plan. She directly attributed the fact that she was still alive to VINE. The story itself was heart-wrenching to read, but it also just drove home to me what an incredible and important resource this is for survivors of crime.
Where can a user go to get more questions answered about using VINELink?
Karen and Jared: By joining a training with us, of course! 😊 But in all seriousness, from their state’s toll-free number, they can patch through to our CustomerFirst Center (CFC) 24 hours a day, seven days a week and speak to someone who can assist them with questions.
We also have training materials available through our brand-new YouTube Channel, the VINE Resource Center. We’re posting content monthly, so it’s another way to stay updated!