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Northeastern State Representatives Learn Strategies at SEARCH/BJS Workshop to Improve Criminal History Records

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WHO

Criminal justice agency officials from 7 Northeastern States: Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont.

Attendees included criminal history repository managers (SEARCH Members) and key stakeholders, including representatives of courts, prosecutors, law enforcement, and correctional agencies.

WHAT

A 1.5-day interactive workshop to explore strategies and techniques to improve information-sharing capabilities and criminal history records data quality.

Third regional workshop in series; previous workshops were held in Little Rock, AR, and Albuquerque, NM.

Read: Little Rock Workshop Proceedings

WHY

Criminal history records are designed to provide a complete and accurate record of a person’s involvement in the justice system and include arrests, prosecutions, court dispositions, probation, jail/prison commitments, release from supervision, and more. They are used for a wide range of decisions in the criminal justice system, as well as for noncriminal justice purposes, such as licensing, background checks, employment decisions, and to determine eligibility for firearms purchases.

Given the central and universal importance of the criminal history record, significant efforts have been underway for many years to improve the accuracy, timeliness, completeness and accessibility of criminal history data. SEARCH has been active in this effort since 1969.

Criminal justice agency officials representing seven northeastern states gathered last week in Portland, Maine, to explore strategies to improve information-sharing and data quality of criminal history records.

SEARCH and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), U.S. Department of Justice, hosted the regional Criminal History Records Improvement Workshop on November 8–9, 2022. In addition to BJS and SEARCH, speakers included representatives of the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).

Through this workshop, SEARCH continues its focus on providing states with strategies and techniques to improve the quality and completeness of computerized criminal history (CCH) records. This workshop marks the third in a series of regional workshops hosted by SEARCH and BJS that bring together teams of stakeholders to discuss operational and technical challenges and to highlight promising practices to improve criminal history data quality.

“Workshop participants discussed common issues and challenges in addressing growing demands for criminal history data and shared their practical experiences,” said SEARCH Executive Director David Roberts. “They also explored promising practices and proven strategies to strengthen information sharing and data quality, and learned about funding opportunities to support their efforts. We hope the workshop will foster statewide strategic planning to improve criminal history records.”

Workshop speakers were:

  • Devon Adams, Chief, Criminal Justice Data Improvement Program, BJS
  • David J. Roberts, Executive Director, SEARCH
  • Dennis DeBacco, Justice Information Services Specialist, SEARCH
  • Dion Bright, Supervisory Management and Program Analyst, FBI CJIS Division
  • Riley Combs, State Criminal History Record Improvement Team, FBI CJIS Division
  • JoAnn Garrison and Ms. Bridgett Whyte, Liaison Specialists, FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
  • James Harris, Principal Court Management Consultant, NCSC.

Workshop topics included:

  • How criminal history records are created and maintained; state-specific fingerprinting requirements; and the respective roles of justice system components (e.g., law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, corrections) in contributing data to the criminal history record.
  • How criminal history records are used for both criminal and noncriminal justice purposes. Criminal justice purposes include risk assessment, and bond/pretrial release decisions, prosecution, sentencing, parole, and record expungement/sealing. Noncriminal justice purposes include licensing, employment, regulatory purposes, and research.
  • The role of law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, jails, prisons, and community supervision agencies in contributing data to the criminal history records repositories.
  • Challenges and promising practices for disposition reporting, including criminal history auditing procedures, stakeholder engagement/reporting, education/training, automation in key agencies (courts, prosecutors, corrections), etc.  Attendees shared how they are dealing with missing arrests due to cite-and-release policies, including fingerprinting in courtrooms and prior to appearances.
  • The critical role of the courts in reporting dispositions to the repository.
  • The FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), including federal/state disqualifiers, sources of records, appropriate placement of records in III, NCIC files and NICS Indices.
  • Identifying each state’s key barriers to making criminal history and firearms prohibitors available (including fingerprint submissions, dispositions, NCIC records, and NICS submissions) and finding potential solutions or action items for each state to improve records availability.
  • Understanding the requirements and impact of expanding records relief programs to seal and expunge criminal records. Clean Slate legislation and similar efforts to clear criminal records can have a significant impact on state criminal history repositories, courts, prosecutors, departments of corrections, and other state and local justice agencies. Workshop participants were briefed on the status of records relief efforts around the nation, and the need for effective planning and implementation.
  • Funding opportunities to support criminal history records improvement projects, including NCHIP and NARIP, and insight into successful applications.
  • Possible governance recommendations and ongoing technical assistance opportunities.
SEARCH Executive Director David Roberts addresses attendees at the Criminal History Improvements Workshop, held Nov. 8–9, 2022, in Portland, ME, and hosted by SEARCH and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.
Mr. Dion Bright, Supervisory Management and Program Analyst with the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, addresses attendees at the Criminal History Improvements Workshop, held Nov. 8–9, 2022, in Portland, ME.
Representatives of justice agencies from seven northeastern states attended the interactive Criminal History Records Improvements Workshop, held Nov. 8–9, 2022, in Portland, ME, hosted by SEARCH and BJS. Attendees shared the common issues and challenges their states face in addressing growing demands for criminal history data.
Speakers at the SEARCH/BJS Criminal History Improvements Workshop, held Nov. 8–9, 2022, in Portland, ME, included Mr. Jim Harris, Principal Court Management Consultant, National Center for State Courts, and Ms. Riley Combs, State Criminal History Record Improvement Team, FBI CJIS Division.
FBI NICS Liaison Specialists, Ms. JoAnn Garrison (standing) and Ms. Bridgett Whyte, provide details of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which conducts background checks on prospective firearm purchasers.
Ms. Devon Adams, Chief of the Criminal Justice Data Improvement Program for BJS, discusses funding opportunities for states to support criminal history records improvement projects, which include the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) and NICS Act Records Improvement Program (NARIP). Listening in at the SEARCH/BJS Criminal History Improvement Workshop, held Nov. 8–9, 2022, in Portland, ME, were state repository representatives and SEARCH Executive Director David Roberts.
At the Criminal History Records Improvement Workshop on Nov. 8–9, 2022, in Portland, ME, Mr. Jim Harris (left), Principal Court Management Consultant, National Center for State Courts, and Mr. David Roberts, Executive Director, SEARCH, listen to attendees sharing their practical experiences in efforts to improve criminal history record data.
At the Criminal History Records Improvement Workshop on Nov. 8–9, 2022, in Portland, ME, Mr. Jim Harris (foreground), Principal Court Management Consultant, National Center for State Courts, and Mr. David Roberts, Executive Director, SEARCH, listen as attendees share their state’s efforts to improve criminal history record data.
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