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SEARCH, BJS and NCSC Host Regional Workshop to Improve Criminal History Records for Reps from 8 Southeastern States

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Criminal justice agency officials representing eight southeastern states gathered last week in Annapolis, MD, to explore strategies to improve information-sharing and data quality of criminal history records.

SEARCH, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), U.S. Department of Justice, and the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) hosted the regional Criminal History Records Improvement Workshop on June 18–19, 2024. In addition to BJS, SEARCH and NCSC, speakers included representatives of the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS).

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 fifth 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,” noted SEARCH Law and Policy Director Becki Goggins. “The participants, who included criminal history repository managers and other stakeholders, also explored promising practices and proven strategies to strengthen information sharing and data quality, and learned about funding opportunities to support their efforts.”

SEARCH and BJS hope the workshops foster statewide strategic planning to improve criminal history records. Another workshop is planned for 2025, and will likely serve states in the Midwest region.

Workshop speakers were:

  • Stephanie Burroughs, Justice Statistics Policy Analyst, BJS
  • Tracy Hicks, Liaison Specialist Supervisor, FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
  • Dreama Hewitt, Liaison Specialist, FBI NICS
  • Becki Goggins, Director of Law and Policy, SEARCH
  • Michael Jacobson, Information Sharing Specialist, SEARCH
  • James Harris, Principal Court Management Consultant, NCSC.

In addition, Karen Lissy, SEARCH Justice Information Services Specialist, led SEARCH’s efforts to organize and coordinate the workshop.

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.
  • 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. 

WHO

Criminal justice agency officials from 8 Southeastern States: Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Attendees included state 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.

Fifth regional workshop in series; previous workshops were held in Portland, ME, Little Rock, AR, Albuquerque, NM, and Boise, ID.

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.

SEARCH Information Sharing Specialist Michael Jacobson discusses strategies to improve information-sharing and data quality of criminal history records at a SEARCH/BJS/NCSC workshop in Annapolis, MD, held June 18-19.
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