Being the victim of a violent crime or any sexually based offense can leave anyone feeling traumatized and highly vulnerable. Witnessing one of these crimes can be traumatic as well – even if the victim wasn’t a loved one or even someone you knew.
There’s a tremendous sense of relief when the person who committed the crime is arrested and put behind bars. However, most people who are incarcerated are eventually released. That can retraumatize victims and even witnesses all over again – particularly if the perpetrator doesn’t appear to show any remorse or has made threats against those who testified against them.
Washington has a Victim/Witness Notification Program that notifies victims of or witnesses to violent and sex crimes when the perpetrator is being released from prison, as well as if they escape or are transferred to another facility. They can also ask to be notified ahead of any hearings regarding the potential release.
The program is completely confidential. The perpetrator doesn’t know who has enrolled in the program, nor can they be provided any information about those who enroll.
The program is also available for parents or guardians of child victims and the next-of-kin of victims who have died. Others may be eligible based on individual circumstances. They would need the permission of the prosecuting attorney involved in the case to use the program.
The state has similar programs for those in psychiatric and juvenile facilities
The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) has a similar program for adult perpetrators who were committed to psychiatric facilities. The Department of Children, Youth and Families has one for those confined to juvenile facilities.
Unfortunately, these programs don’t always work as intended. Further, there are instances where prisoners are mistakenly released due to a paperwork mix-up or other error. If you or a loved one has suffered harm because you weren’t appropriately protected from a perpetrator, find out what your rights are. It’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance.