Eds: UPDATES with additional details.
By BETSY TAYLOR
Associated Press Writer
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The public can gain access to information about Missouri prisoners — including where they are behind bars and why — through a new state Department of Corrections Web link.
"I think the number-one thing is to keep the public informed," corrections spokesman Brian Hauswirth said Monday.
The Department of Corrections said it takes calls every day from people seeking updates on prisoners. The new link, http://www.doc.mo.gov, is intended to allow people to get that information more quickly and easily.
Users can type in a prisoner's name and access information such as the offender's race, sex, date of birth, where he or she is imprisoned and a summary of the sentence. They can also learn why a prisoner is currently incarcerated, past offenses and aliases.
The site, updated each day at 9 p.m., does not include prisoners' release dates. Hauswirth said the department may make additions to the site, but chose to get it up and running with basic information. It went online earlier this month.
Hauswirth said the Web link does not replace a notification system for crime victims and their families. They will still be notified by the Department of Corrections through letters, e-mails, phone calls or all three if they prefer if a prisoner who committed a crime against them is paroled or escapes.
The link also allows the media to access information and mug shots quickly, he said.
Hauswirth said several states already have similar Web sites. He said the department has not received complaints from those advocating on behalf of prisoners. The details shared online are public information, he said.
The offender search link is listed as "MODOC Offender Search" and can be found under "Quicklinks" at http://www.doc.mo.gov.
Sites like the one in Missouri can be a help to crime victims and their families to keep tabs on prisoners, said Jamie Lind, associate director of Parents of Murdered Children. The Cincinnati-based organization provides support to families of homicide victims.
She said the organization tells its members to call jails or prisons every few months, to make sure the prisoner is still there and hasn't been transferred or paroled.