Following revelations last year that Ohio's state criminal background check system was obsolete and incomplete, the state's Attorney General is taking steps to replace the system entirely. According to an Associated Press report, Attorney General Mike DeWine is "awaiting bids for the job," which will involve a complete overhaul of the system's hardware and software components.
Last spring, an investigation done by The Columbus Dispatch highlight flaws in Ohio's criminal background check system. According to the Dispatch, the system, which is overseen by the state's Bureau of Criminal Investigations, "sometimes incorrectly lists felons as having clean records." In other words, the obsolete system is not reliable in presenting accurate results for fingerprint-based background checks. Checks can also take a long time to be completed, and many county court clerks throughout the state don't consistently report their new criminal convictions to the Bureau of Criminal Investigations anyway. The result is an incomplete, unreliable system that could be a major liability for employers throughout Ohio.
The good news is that the system is going to be replaced, and it sounds like the overhaul is going to be a comprehensive one. DeWine is looking for contractors who can replace the hardware and software for the system, and is in the midst of seeking state funding for the project. It's unclear how long it will take for the new background check system to be implemented, but within the next year to 18 months seems like a reasonable estimate.
The bad news is that the new Bureau of Criminal Investigations system is going to cost a lot of money. Already, DeWine has spent nearly half a million dollars on the project. According to the Associated Press report, the Attorney General's office spent $475,000 on a consultant last fall to help "plan the replacement system." Supposedly, those plans are now being used to help focus the search for the contractor that will actually build the new system. However, if simply conceptualizing the background check system cost a small fortune, actually taking that concept and building into something functional and efficient is only going to cost more.
In the meantime, Ohio employers should focus their pre-hiring background checks on county courts. Address histories can help illuminate where an applicant has lived in the past seven to 10 years. In turn, county criminal checks in those localities have a strong likelihood of catching any red flags in the applicant's past. Such a system isn't perfect, as someone could have been convicted of a crime when he or she didn't have a static living address or was away from home. However, since most convicted felons are convicted of their offenses in their home counties, county checks are a good starting point to go to keep a vetting process thorough even in light of a broken state criminal screening system.