The prevalence of criminal background checks is growing at a rapid clip in Rhode Island, not just for full-time jobs, but for volunteer positions and organizations like homeless shelters as well. State legislation in recent years has expanded to demand that more private sector employers administer full background checks for a wider range of employment opportunities.
For instance, this fall, the state passed a law demanding that all school volunteers be thoroughly background checked prior to being allowed to serve. That particular bill sent a flurry of school helpers flooding police departments and state institutions, looking to complete the screening process. Public and private schoolteachers were already required to submit to a background check, as were other commonly background checked groups such as nursing home employees, massage therapists, healthcare professionals, and lottery ticket sellers, to name a few.
Statistics support the claim that background checks are currently at a peak in Rhode Island. According to the Providence Journal, the state's Bureau of Criminal Identification did 46,238 background checks in the first eight months of 2013 alone, only about 10,000 less than the full-year total from 2010's numbers. In 2010, the Rhode Island attorney general recorded about 57,000 background checks. Last year, they did more than 74,000, and the number could go up again this year. Clearly, employers in both the public and private sectors are getting more cautious.
Furthermore, those Rhode Island figures are not even taking into account the background checks that employers may be filtering through private entities. A thorough criminal history check can be done through websites like backgroundchecks.com rather than through local or state sources like a police bureau. A criminal search ordered from backgroundchecks.com can be every bit as thorough as one run through a state or federal government entity, with searches ranging from checks of county court records, state repositories, database searches that span criminal records across all states nationwide and even wants and warrant lists, as well as terrorist watch lists and sex offender registries.
So why is Rhode Island becoming more thorough about its background check procedures? Beyond further government directives, there is no one answer to that question. Employers may have been burned by experiences with poor employees in the past or may be wising up to the fact that, if a background check is not administered and a criminal employee ends up hurting another worker, the employer can be held liable for any damages. Whatever the reason, the trend in Rhode Island is an encouraging that could mean safer workplaces and more reliable workforces throughout the state.