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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Audit questions state criminal history database

Posted By on Wed, Oct 5, 2011 at 11:23 AM

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A new state audit highlights serious gaps in the Texas' criminal records database, showing roughly a quarter of the state's criminal background checks, used to screen teachers, doctors, nurses, and daycare workers, may be flawed. The audit says that prosecutors and courts around the state have failed to submit disposition records for roughly one of every four arrests – still, a slight improvement from the last audit in 2006, the State Auditors Office noted. Such dispositions, simply put, tell DPS' criminal history database whether a criminal case against someone is being prosecuted or has been rejected, as well as whether that suspect has actually been convicted or acquitted of the crime. The report calls into question just how reliable the state's criminal history database really is (three out of four ain't bad, right?). While state law requires courts to submit information to the system within 30 days of an update in a case, they basically work on an honor system, the report notes. “DPS cannot control whether prosecutor offices and courts submit all records because the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures does not provide DPS with the ability to penalize prosecutor offices and courts for not submitting.” The audit also states that between September 2009 and November 2010 only 63 percent of cases dismissed by prosecutors made it into to DPS database within that 30-day window. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is also required to monitor data on probationers, sending so-called “flash notices” to DPS when a probationer has been re-arrested. The audit found that nearly half of Texas probation departments had failed to do so, and in Bexar County, the audit notes, officials “had not viewed arrest records associated with flash notices in more than a year.” As of May 5, 2011, the audit notes, “Bexar County CSCD did not have a flash coordinator because it was not aware of the flash notice process.” Just in case the audit hasn't done the trick, we've put out a call to the county's adult probation department to see if they've caught on to the process by now.  

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