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Blogging background checking and security issues

4.19.2005

Criminal History Demand too Much for States

Maine’s State Bureau of Identification is having a difficult time keeping up with the increased demand for criminal histories. The spokesman for the department said that the number of requests by private companies and law enforcement agencies increased greatly after 9/11 – no big surprise.

They’ve requested additional staff in order to convert paper files to an electronic, searchable database, but this is a situation that is indicative of all of the states that offer criminal histories. Perhaps one of the reasons that states’ criminal departments typically provide poor customer service and slow turnaround time is simple that they’re swamped and, being a government agency, have to wade through a sea of bureaucracy before additional staff and resources can be obtained to fix the problem.

County-level courts, especially those in highly populated counties, also run into the same problems. Many courts are now offering online access to their criminal history information via databases, online or through computer terminals at the courthouse. The quality of the information obtained this way is somewhat questionable, but if that’s all that’s available then whoever is doing the search can’t be expected to do more.

There are certainly states and counties that are still very difficult to work with, but given our nation’s security climate I would expect to be able to conduct criminal history searches much more easily within the next few years. This is good news. It means lower cost for obtaining criminal history information, which means more access for the public and, to some degree, more accountability for criminals.

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