HD64 - Criminal History Record Checks for Volunteer and Contract Service Providers
In 1997, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution 534 Directing the Virginia State Crime Commission to study criminal history record checks on volunteer and contract service providers who work with children, the elderly, the mentally and physically incapacitated and challenged, and other citizens in need of special services. Specifically, the Crime Commission evaluated:
• The Requirements of the National Child Protection Act of 1993 as amended by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 relating to criminal history records;
• Current Virginia statutes governing criminal history record checks;
• The costs associated with state and national criminal history record checks; and
• Alternative screening mechanisms for applicants of positions involving work with vulnerable populations.
Generally, the Crime Commission found:
• Federal law allows for, but does not mandate, the enacting of state legislation requiring those who hire employees to work with vulnerable populations to do national, fingerprint-based criminal history record checks.
• According to national survey data, there is s substantial number of people with adverse criminal histories employed to care for vulnerable populations.
• Minimal Virginia specific data is available regarding the criminal histories of those working with vulnerable populations in the Commonwealth.
• The stigma and cost associated with finger printing and criminal history record checks is likely to reduce the size of the pool of people willing to volunteer for work with vulnerable populations.
• The Virginia State Police currently has a system for disseminating criminal history information contained in the Central Criminal Records Exchange. Virginia law requires that this information be provided free to volunteer organizations.
• Information contained in Virginia's Central Criminal Records Exchange is sometimes incomplete and inaccurate.
• The use of volunteers and contract service providers for the care of vulnerable populations has increased in recent years.
• Some states, including Florida and Texas, have open criminal history record systems. Under the laws of these states, criminal history records are provided to any member of the public for a small fee.
Based on these findings, the Crime Commission recommends:
• No legislation be passed at this time requiring all businesses and organizations that work with vulnerable populations to perform national criminal history background checks.
• The Code of Virginia be amended to allow any member of the public to access the conviction records of individuals who were convicted as adults.
• Additional training should be provided for the clerks of courts who enter criminal conviction data so as to insure the accuracy of the Central Criminal Records Exchange.
• The audit of public accounts be expanded to require random checks of the accuracy of criminal history records information sent by court clerks to the Virginia State Police.