Alaska Receives Federal Grant to Improve Criminal Background Check Systems

Across the United States, there is no strictly standardized way to gather, update, maintain, and report criminal records. With 50 states, that means 50 diverse systems, all administered in different ways and using varying levels of technology. For federal programs such as the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which are mandatory for those purchasing firearms, this creates numerous challenges to maintaining accurate records.

To facilitate the modernization of aging state criminal record systems and to improve the quality of records entering federal systems, the government runs numerous grant programs funded via appropriations from Congress. In a recent press release by the Department of Justice, the Alaska US Attorney’s office announced that the state’s Department of Public Safety would receive a substantial grant via two separate legislative grant programs.

What will the grant do for background checks in Alaska?

The two grants, worth approximately 3.3 million dollars, aim to fund numerous improvements to the systems in Alaska that make any form of criminal record check possible. Some of the funding will go towards facilitating better communication and connection between the Alaska court system and the Department of Public Safety. 

Courts can sometimes be slow to post or transmit updates on criminal cases and records, which can lead to state-level repositories going out of date. When that happens, the most current information isn’t as easy to find. These systems also feed into the federal NICS program, which means that some firearm or explosive background checks might not always return critical information. In other cases, individuals may face unnecessary delays in receiving background check results. Portions of the grant will aid the development of better systems.

Another portion of the grant will go towards replacing heavily outdated computer systems in Alaska, which use an old mainframe-style system to host state criminal records. Updating and replacing this system will ensure faster, more regular access to important criminal record data for law enforcement and employers who may need to check a criminal record.

The importance of accurate records in hiring

Grant programs such as these provide valuable funding that ultimately translates into a genuine return for taxpayers. More accurate and up-to-date criminal record repositories benefit businesses within the state and contribute to safer national-level background checks. Additionally, accuracy helps companies comply with non-discrimination laws, especially in areas with “ban the box” rules that require an individual assessment of each applicant’s criminal past. 

Though Alaska does not have such rules, many other states do. Employers elsewhere in the nation may encounter individuals with records from states such as Alaska. A state repository that updates more frequently ensures such employers can accurately and reliably screen candidates and protect the public.

Find a reliable way to check for a criminal record in your state

A far-reaching criminal background check helps employers develop a better sense of applicant suitability and trustworthiness. Working with a background check agency that understands the diversity of state record repositories and prioritizes accuracy helps relieve the burden of navigating such a complex system. As more states strive to improve their record-keeping, so too should employers ensure they have the best resources at hand for fair hiring and a thorough employee background check.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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