Montana posts felons' records
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 25, 2002
Montana's Department of Corrections
Public records of convicted felons in Montana are now available through
the state government's Web site.
The Correctional Offender Network (app.discoveringmontana.com/conweb), holding more than 33,000 records on
felony convictions only, debuted April 19 for citizens and businesses to
Users can search via a Department of Corrections ID number, name, birth
date, race or offender type, meaning whether a person is an inmate, on parole,
escaped or in a supervision program.
Displayed records could include a photo; physical description; characteristics
such as locations of scars, marks and tattoos; aliases; criminal status
and other information.
A day after the network's debut, the corrections site received 61,000
hits compared to the 1,000 hits it normally gets on a Saturday, said Ellen
Bush, communications director with the state Department of Corrections.
Businesses can use the site for employment background checks, she said.
For victims, it's another avenue to check on the status and whereabouts
of offenders in correctional facilities or on parole.
The service debuted at the beginning of National Crime Victims' Rights
Week, which runs through April 27.
"We're trying to help protect victims and trying to empower them by
getting them information they need to keep them safe," Bush said.
But she said that victims shouldn't rely solely on the new site because
it's updated only weekly. Another service Victim Information and Notification
Everyday, or VINE provides current information about inmates via a toll-free
number. Users can register for VINE, which is updated sometimes twice daily,
and be notified of an offender's custody status, she said. The service is
also used nationally, she said, adding that she would like to try to make
VINE available online as well.
Prior to the new service, she said her department responded to some
telephone inquiries, but didn't have the staffing to do it on a continuing
basis. Businesses also requested access to such databases, but because they
included private information, the department could not provide access.
The idea for a Web-based application that would display only relevant
public data was hatched at the end of January, Bush said. Montana officials
looked at similar sites in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Arkansas,
The site was developed cooperatively among the Department of Corrections,
the state's Information Technology Services Division and Montana Interactive
Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Overland Park, Kansas-based NIC, which
built the state portal.