How the Right CCH Solution Can Power Your State's Clean Slate Initiative

January 20, 2022 GCOM Leadership Team
State Solutions for Computerized Criminal History (CCH) - GCOM

One in three Americans has a criminal record. Since 90% of employers use background checks when vetting job applications, any criminal record, even in the absence of a conviction, reduces individuals’ chance of getting a job offer by half. A growing number of the nation’s residents and political leaders agree that once those individuals – especially those who have committed non-violent crimes – have paid their debt to society, they should have the opportunity to get a fair-paying job, purchase a home and contribute to their communities.

That’s the idea behind Clean Slate, a bipartisan policy model that applies technology to automatically clear criminal records if a person remains crime-free. Five states – Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Utah – have enacted automated record-clearing legislation. Fifteen others have implemented or are moving toward automatic sealing or expungement of certain criminal records.

That presents a challenge. Every state that embraces the Clean Slate model will make its own decisions about how to handle criminal records – from what counts as a crime to which crimes should be erased to how such erasure should occur. How will your state pursue its goals for automated record-clearing without having to build a digitized system from scratch?

What every state CJIS Systems Agency needs is a proven, configurable and flexible Computerized Criminal History (CCH) solution. Such a solution should empower your state to quickly implement and manage the Clean Slate approaches and processes that meet its unique needs.

A Different Clean Slate for Every State

Bipartisan federal legislation known as the Clean Slate Act has been introduced in both the House and Senate. The legislation would permit the automatic sealing of federal charges for people convicted of low-level, nonviolent drug crimes after they’ve served any sentences. It would also seal records of people who were arrested but not convicted. And it would allow people convicted of other nonviolent offences to petition a federal judge to seal relevant federal records.

In the meantime, states are taking their own approaches. These plans can differ substantially, and many are in flux. Here are a few examples:

  • Florida – Florida seals and expunges certain non-conviction records. Its Department of Law Enforcement is authorized to seal some non-conviction records automatically when the clerk of the court submits a disposition – though that doesn’t seal the record at the local level.
  • Georgia – Georgia recently expanded eligibility and access to record restriction and sealing. Some records are automatically restricted after a waiting period. Others can be restricted after petition by the individual.
  • Maryland – All non-convictions can be expunged if the petitioner waives his or her right to sue the state. Otherwise, there’s a three-year waiting period. Some low-level misdemeanor convictions can be expunged after three to four years. Other nonviolent property crimes involve 10- to 15-year waiting periods.
  • New York – Individuals can petition to seal up to two convictions, one of which can be a felony. Non-conviction records are automatically sealed, and low-level marijuana convictions are automatically expunged. Some drug offenses can conditionally be sealed on completion of an alternative judicial program.
  • Virginia – Two recent measures significantly expand eligibility for record-clearing by petition. They also automatically seal non-conviction records and certain misdemeanors after seven years without a conviction. Individuals can also petition to expunge charges that resulted in acquittal or dismissal.

The CCH Solution That’s Right for You

The varied nature of these Clean Slate initiative means there’s no standard approach or one-size-fits-all solution for automating the clearing of criminal records. What’s needed is a system of computerized criminal history that’s flexible enough to accommodate your state’s unique needs and adapt to your changing requirements.

Look for a CCH solution designed for modern digitization in a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) offering. The solution should be purpose-built following service-oriented architecture (SOA) principles for maximum configuration flexibility. It should enable rapid implementation, integrate cleanly with your criminal justice ecosystem, and meet all CJIS Security Policy requirements.

Specific capabilities to look for include:

  • Sophisticated name-matching and validation algorithms
  • Extensive suspense-record reporting and workflows
  • Comprehensive transaction auditing, archiving and retrieval
  • Configurable workflows and notifications
  • Flexible data reporting and visualization, with canned reports and ad-hoc features
  • Integration with the national systems such as the Interstate Identification Index (III), National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS) and National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

Ultimately, such a solution should enable your state to track individuals through all phases and permutations of their criminal justice lifecycle. It should create and maintain a chain of data associated with criminal history. And it should enable you to manually or automatically seal, unseal and expunge records. Throughout these workflows, the solution should enable smooth cooperation among law enforcement, courts, prosecutors, corrections and supervision agencies.

Clean Slate initiatives have gained momentum at both the state and national levels. Yet each state must be able to implement the technology that reflects its own Clean Slate realties both today and tomorrow. An effective CCH solution will give you the tools to manage an important criminal justice process that affects the lives and livelihoods of all your state’s residents.

January 20, 2022 GCOM Leadership Team
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