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Verification
•To verify an offender’s status, go to the Indiana Department of Correction Web site: www.in.gov/apps/indcorrection/ofs/ofs

Inmate-release glitch alerts, scares victims

In 2003, then-17-year-old Benjamin Rose received a 135-year prison sentence for multiple counts of criminal deviate conduct, burglary and other charges for his role in a violent home invasion and rape.

He’s supposed to stay in prison until 2070.

But Thursday afternoon, one of his victims called Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards’ office, panicked by news that the man was getting out of jail on Thursday.

The victim was one of the more than 11,000 registrants on the state’s victim-notification Web site who received erroneous notification of a prisoner’s immediate release from the Indiana Department of Correction. The state’s program is run by Kentucky-based Appriss Inc., which provides victim-notification services around the country.

Department of Correction spokesman Doug Garrison said the problem was caused by Appriss during routine maintenance on its Web site.

When the problem was detected, the site was shut down but thousands already were notified, officials said.

Whatever the reason, prosecutors were angry.

“The Department of Corrections has single-handedly instilled panic in victims of serious crimes throughout Allen County, and apparently statewide,” Richards said, after her deputies spent much of Thursday afternoon calming victims.

“We don’t have a voice mail in our criminal division that isn’t full. There’s no more room for anyone to leave a message,” Richards said. “They have caused serious emotional distress to folks.”

It was the same in Huntington County, where Prosecutor Amy Richison spent her afternoon much as Richards did – fielding calls and calming victims.

“I feel horrible,” she said. “People are calling into my office, crying.”

The Department of Correction is deeply apologetic, Garrison said.

“We know it caused people to anguish. We are making our best efforts to solve the problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Appriss officials said they are trying to isolate the cause of the problem.

As soon as they noticed the problem, largely by the increased calls being received by their own operators, they shut down the system, said Rick Jones, Appriss spokesman.

By Thursday evening, the state was notifying those who received any messages about a prisoner’s “change in status.” Some of the messages that had gone out, about 270, were correct and those people were being contacted as well, Jones said.

rgreen@jg.net

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