A state senator has introduced a bill that would create a pilot program to automatically notify victims and witnesses of upcoming court dates in Lake County.
State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) introduced the measure at the request of Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart, according to the state’s attorney’s office.
“We have an option to make the court system as accessible as possible to victims of crime,” Morrison said.
“This pilot program is innovative and will make a difference in how Lake County will be able to communicate with victims and their families,” she said.
Morrison’s proposal would create a pilot program through the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office that would send text messages to victims and witnesses about upcoming court dates.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office employs 12 full-time victim-witness coordinators who guide and support victims through the court process.
The coordinators work to connect the survivors of crimes with services while also educating them about how their own case will proceed through court, the state’s attorney’s office said.
Part of the coordinators’ duties includes updating victims and witnesses on changes in court dates.
“Our office is here to support every victim in every way we can. We need this ‘safety net’ of information so that we can be 100% sure we are reaching those who need the courthouse the most. Our coordinators are amazing,” Rinehart said.
“Some of them have over 150 victims to contact. With this new program, they can prioritize individualized support while this system quickly delivers basic and accurate information to every victim and every witness,” Rinehart said.
The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office estimates that it supports more than 1,000 victims at a time.
While the program spearheaded by Morrison would start in Lake County, it would give other prosecutors’ offices a chance to learn and build upon the Lake County program down the road.
Senate Bill 3779 awaits a hearing in the Appropriations-Judiciary Committee.