Proposed bill would require court to automatically notify victims of upcoming court dates in Lake County

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File Photo – Illinois State Senator Julie Morrison (D-Lake Forest) | Photo: Office of State Senator Julie Morrison

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 justice 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 can 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 text 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.

Coordinators are working to connect crime survivors with services while educating them about how their own case will proceed in court, the state attorney’s office said.

Part of the Coordinators’ job is to notify victims and witnesses of changes in court dates.

“Our office is here to support every victim in any way possible. We need this “safety net” of information to be 100% sure we are reaching those who need the courthouse the most. Our coordinators are amazing,” Rinehart said.

“Some of them have more than 150 victims to contact. With this new program, they can prioritize individualized support while this system quickly provides basic and accurate information to each victim and witness,” Rinehart said.

The Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office estimates it is caring for more than 1,000 victims at a time.

While the Morrison-led program would begin in Lake County, he would give other prosecutors’ offices a chance to learn from and build on the Lake County program down the road.

Senate Bill 3779 awaits a hearing at the Judicial Appropriations Committee.

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