oversight

Fingerprint-Based Background Checks: Implementation of the National Child Protection Act of 1993

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-01-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States General Accounting Office

GAO             Report to the Honorable
                Fred Thompson, U.S. Senate



January 1997
                FINGERPRINT-BASED
                BACKGROUND CHECKS
                Implementation of the
                National Child Protection
                Act of 1993




GAO/GGD-97-32
          United States
GAO       General Accounting Office
          Washington, D.C. 20548

          General Government Division

          B-272098

          January 15, 1997

          The Honorable Fred Thompson
          United States Senate

          Dear Senator Thompson:

          This report responds to your January 3, 1996, request that we review
          certain implementation issues under the National Child Protection Act of
          1993 (NCPA), as amended (42 U.S.C. 5119 et seq.). This federal legislation
          encourages states to enact statutes authorizing fingerprint-based national
          searches of criminal history records of individuals seeking paid or
          volunteer positions with organizations serving children, the elderly, or the
          disabled. As agreed with you, we conducted work in five states (California,
          Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) to address the following
          questions:1

      •   To what extent have selected states enacted statutes authorizing national
          background checks of child care providers? Also, what fees are charged
          for background checks of volunteers, and how do these fees compare with
          the actual costs in these states?
      •   What effects have these states’ laws and related fees had on volunteerism?
          For instance, have the laws and fees discouraged volunteers from
          participating in child care programs at nonprofit entities?
      •   Have selected state agencies and other organizations found national
          background checks a useful screening tool? More specifically, for selected
          job or position categories in selected jurisdictions, how often have
          fingerprint-based background checks identified individuals with criminal
          histories?
      •   What is the status of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification
          System (IAFIS) being developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
          (FBI), and what are the selected states’ plans for using the system when it
          becomes available?

          Initially, we identified and reviewed relevant child care-related statutes
          enacted by each of the five states. Also, we identified the FBI’s and the
          selected states’ fees for background checks. We compared these fees to
          the actual costs of such checks, as reported by the FBI and the respective
          state agencies; however, we did not independently verify the accuracy of

          1
           On the basis of your specific interest, we focused our work on workers who interact with children.
          Factors we considered in selecting the states to study were the scope of the states’ laws authorizing
          background checks, whether the states had any automated fingerprint identification services, the
          number of youth under age 18 in the states, and geographical coverage. Also, you expressed specific
          interest in Tennessee.



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             these amounts. To determine the effects (if any) of these laws and related
             fees on volunteerism, we reviewed applicable studies and interviewed
             officials of 3 national and 20 local nonprofit youth-serving organizations.
             Regarding the usefulness of national checks, we obtained views from
             officials at relevant national, state, and local organizations. Also, for at
             least one job or position category in each of the five states, we analyzed
             available statistics on the number and the results of national
             fingerprint-based background checks of applicants. To determine the
             status of IAFIS, we interviewed FBI officials and reviewed documentation
             regarding the system’s schedule and progress. Also, we contacted
             responsible officials in each of the five states to determine their plans for
             interfacing with IAFIS.

             We did our work from March to October 1996 in accordance with
             generally accepted government auditing standards. Because our work
             covered only selected child care organizations and/or positions and
             selected locations within five states, our findings (1) should not be
             considered representative of statewide conditions in the selected states
             and (2) are not projectable to other states. Appendix I provides further
             details about our objectives, scope, and methodology.


             Over 87 million children in the United States participate in activities
Background   provided by child- and youth-serving organizations each year. Many of
             these organizations have formalized and structured environments, such as
             schools, which children are required to attend. Others are voluntary,
             extracurricular activities, such as clubs and sports activities. The known
             adult-child interactions that involve child abuse in these out-of-home
             settings, although a relatively small percentage of child abuse overall,2
             have drawn public attention and generated parental alarm about the safety
             of children in such settings.3 In 1996, the Department of Justice issued a
             report that examines the most serious crimes against children.4 For
             example, the report provides analyses of more than 35,000 cases of child
             murder that occurred between 1976 and 1994.


             2
              Most instances of reported child maltreatment involve in-home or family situations. For example,
             according to reports from the states to the National Center For Child Abuse and Neglect, in 1994
             approximately 80 percent of perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and an additional
             10 percent were other relatives of the victim.
             3
              American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, Effective Screening of Child Care and
             Youth Service Workers, January 1995.
             4
              Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Child Victimizers: Violent Offenders and Their
             Victims, NCJ-153258, March 1996.



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Criminal history records checks are one of several methods of predicting
the suitability of individuals seeking paid or volunteer positions with
organizations that interact with children. National fingerprint checks can
help identify criminal histories of individuals convicted of a crime
anywhere in the United States who are seeking a volunteer or paid
position in any state.

The checks of criminal history records for civil (noncriminal justice)
purposes have long been a part of the FBI’s workload. Public Law 92-544,
which was enacted in 1972 and preceded NCPA, authorizes the FBI to
exchange identification records with officials of state and local
governments for purposes of licensing and employment—if such
exchanges are also authorized by a state statute that has been approved by
the U.S. Attorney General.

NCPA did not give the states any new access to national fingerprint-based
background checks and did not mandate the states to pass laws. Rather,
NCPA highlighted the need for such background checks and encouraged the
states to pass appropriate legislation. Thus, under NCPA, background
checks must be handled in accordance with the requirements of Public
Law 92-544. For example, each state that wants the FBI to conduct national
criminal history records checks of child care or youth service workers
must have in place a law defining what categories of jobs or positions
require the background checks. It is left up to each state to decide how
broadly to extend the background check requirement. But, whatever the
scope, there must be a state law requiring fingerprinting of the employee
or volunteer and allowing5 the FBI to conduct criminal history background
checks of persons in or applying for the specified categories of jobs or
positions.

Further, NCPA specifies that the criminal records search must be based
upon fingerprints. Thus, each request for a criminal history background
search must be accompanied by a set of 10-print fingerprint cards. These
submissions must be made by (and the results returned to) a designated
governmental agency, such as a state Department of Education,
Department of Social Services, or a state public safety or police
department. NCPA requires that these designated agencies be responsible
for determining whether the provider has been convicted of, or is under
pending indictment for, a crime that bears upon the provider’s fitness to
have responsibility for the safety and well-being of children. However, the

5
 In commenting on a draft of this report, U.S. Department of Justice officials noted that NCPA does not
recommend that these checks of criminal history records be mandatory.



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                   act does not provide a specific list of disqualifying offenses; rather, each
                   state must make these determinations.

                   When enacted in 1993, NCPA specified that fees collected by the FBI and
                   authorized state agencies, respectively, for fingerprint-based background
                   checks of volunteers with a qualified entity6 could not exceed the actual
                   cost. The provision was amended in 1994 to specify that the fee for these
                   volunteers could not exceed $18 or the actual cost, whichever is less.7
                   Also, the act specifies that the states shall ensure that fees to nonprofit
                   entities for fingerprint-based background checks do not discourage
                   volunteers from participating in child care programs.8

                   According to the FBI, advances in electronic communications, expanding
                   legislative mandates, and increased sophistication of law enforcement
                   technology are expected to double the number of all types of criminal
                   history information requests by the end of the century. IAFIS, which has
                   been under development since the early 1990s, is being designed to
                   provide more efficient identification services by, among other means,
                   eliminating the need to transport and process paper fingerprint cards.


                   Although there are considerable differences in scope or coverage, each of
Results in Brief   the five study states has enacted statutes authorizing national
                   fingerprint-based background checks regarding paid and/or volunteer
                   positions at various types of child care-related organizations, such as
                   public schools, day care centers, and youth sports leagues. For 1995,
                   available (but incomplete) information indicates that the number of
                   national checks of child care providers in the 5 states ranged from about
                   1,200 in Texas to about 125,000 in Florida, with the majority involving paid
                   positions (e.g., schoolteachers) rather than volunteers. Three of the five
                   states (California, Tennessee, and Texas) have authority to request

                   6
                    NCPA defines “qualified entity” as a business or organization, whether public, private, for-profit,
                   not-for-profit, or voluntary, that provides child care or child care placement services, including a
                   business or organization that licenses or certifies others to provide child care or child care placement
                   services. 42 U.S.C. 5119c(10).
                   7
                    The fee cap applies separately to the states and the FBI. Thus, $36 is the total maximum fee for a
                   complete background check (by a state and the FBI) of a volunteer. NCPA does not set fee levels for
                   background checks of paid employees.
                   8
                    Under provisions of the act (42 U.S.C. 5119 note), the Department of Justice is developing guidelines
                   to address the cost, timeliness, and effectiveness of criminal history background checks and to help
                   ensure that fees for background checks do not discourage volunteers from participating in care
                   programs. According to Justice officials, these guidelines are expected to be issued in spring 1997 and
                   will address the types of screening mechanisms that the Department encourages for both paid and
                   volunteer service providers.



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national checks of volunteers at nonprofit youth-serving organizations.9
However, these states do not require that national checks be done, and
few checks have been requested.10 In Tennessee, for example, although all
nonprofit youth-serving organizations are authorized to request national
checks, only two such checks were requested in 1995.

A complete check of criminal history records has both FBI and state agency
components. The FBI’s fee for national fingerprint-based background
checks of volunteer applicants is $18.11 Also, the FBI projected that its
costs for a national check would average $18 in 1996. In the three states
with authority to request national checks of volunteers at nonprofit
youth-serving organizations, the respective state’s fees were zero
(California), $18 (Tennessee), and $15 (Texas). Of these states, only
California had recently (in 1996) calculated its actual costs for a state
fingerprint check.12

State laws and related fees did not appear to have negatively affected
volunteerism at the various nonprofit youth-serving organizations we
contacted, since applicable statutes permitted rather than required
fingerprint-based background checks, and few had been requested.
However, the fees charged for background checks were a concern to
officials at many of the nonprofit organizations we contacted—a concern
that would be heightened, they said, if state laws were changed to require
fingerprint checks.

Officials at the various organizations we contacted said that national
checks are or could be a useful tool that should supplement rather than
supplant other important screening practices. These officials told us they
believe the prospect of being subjected to a national background check
deters an indeterminate but significant number of individuals with
unacceptable criminal histories from even applying for certain positions.


9
 The organizations include the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, camp groups, and others that work with
children and depend largely upon volunteers. The other two states (Florida and Virginia) do not have
statutes authorizing national fingerprint checks of volunteers at nonprofit youth-serving organizations.
10
 Tennessee and Texas have statutes that specifically permit national background checks of such
volunteers. The California statute refers to state background checks of such volunteers. California and
FBI officials interpret this provision as implying authorization for national checks.
11
  While each organization or individual is required to pay the $18 fee, in most states, a responsible state
agency retains a small portion ($2) of this fee. Specifically, the state agency responsible for
(1) forwarding the applicant’s fingerprint card to the FBI, (2) collecting the $18 fee, and (3) serving as
the agency that the FBI bills monthly for processing such cards, retains $2 to offset the administrative
handling costs in connection with collection of the fee and serving as the billing agency and submits
only $16 to the FBI. See tables III.1 and III.2 in appendix III.
12
    We did not audit or verify the actual costs reported by the FBI or California.


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                         In this sense, according to these officials, national checks are useful
                         irrespective of how often the checks identify individuals with criminal
                         histories (“hit rates”).

                         For selected job positions, organizations, or local jurisdictions in the five
                         study states, we found that national checks detected some applicants with
                         criminal histories who may not have been detected by less comprehensive
                         practices, including state background checks. Perhaps the most dramatic
                         example occurred in 1996 in Tennessee, where four children were
                         removed from a foster care placement after a national check showed that
                         the foster parent had a previous conviction in Alabama for enticing a child
                         into his home for immoral purposes. Due to an absence of reporting
                         requirements, we were unable to obtain comprehensive statistics on the
                         use and results of national fingerprint background checks in the five states
                         we studied.

                         According to the FBI, in October 1998 IAFIS is scheduled to be available to a
                         few (to be selected) states, for purposes of conducting national fingerprint
                         checks of applicants, with all other states that have appropriate
                         technology coming on-line by July 1999.13 Once IAFIS is fully implemented,
                         the FBI expects that the processing time for national fingerprint checks of
                         applicants will be reduced from 7 weeks (not including mailing time)
                         under current processes to about 24 hours.14 Responsible public agency
                         officials in the five states we visited told us they are aware of the
                         requirements for interfacing with IAFIS and that their respective states plan
                         to use the system.


                         According to the FBI, 37 of the 50 states have enacted legislation
Variations in Scope or   authorizing use of national fingerprint-based checks of criminal history
Coverage of Statutes     records for purposes of checking applicants for paid or volunteer
in the Five Study        positions involving interaction with children.15 The 5 states we selected for
                         review are among these 37. Applicable statutes in the five states vary
States                   considerably in scope or coverage (see app. II). For example, Tennessee’s
                         statute covers a broad range of positions or work settings involving
                         interaction with children, while Virginia’s statutes cover only selected

                         13
                            FBI, Status Report on Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (Third Quarter, Fiscal
                         Year 1996).
                         14
                          At the time of our review, FBI officials told us that they had not projected the actual cost of (nor the
                         appropriate fee for) a fingerprint-based background check under a fully implemented IAFIS.
                         15
                          The 13 states without national access are Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine,
                         Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Utah.



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                       school districts and juvenile residential facilities. Also, some statutes
                       cover new applicants only, while other statutes cover both current
                       employees and new applicants. The statutes also differ regarding whether
                       national checks are required or permitted. For example, the Florida child
                       care-related statutes shown in appendix II require national checks,
                       whereas Tennessee’s statutes permit but do not require national checks.


                       Three of the five states (California, Tennessee, and Texas) have authority
Even When National     to request national checks of volunteers at nonprofit youth-serving
Fingerprint Checks     organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America and Big Brothers/Big
Have Been              Sisters of America. Within these states, in reference to these volunteers,
                       the use of fingerprints to nationally check criminal history records has
Authorized, Few        been limited. For example, in California, although all nonprofit
Volunteers Have Been   youth-serving organizations have authority to request national checks,
                       only 12 checks had been requested from January through June 1996. In
Checked                Tennessee, only two such checks were requested in 1995. In Texas, four
                       nonprofit youth-serving organizations are authorized to request national
                       checks.16 From August 1, 1995, through July 17, 1996, a total of 98 national
                       checks were requested, all by one local affiliate of the Big Brothers/Big
                       Sisters of America.

                       Officials at most of the nonprofit youth-serving organizations we
                       contacted suggested several reasons why the use of national checks of
                       volunteers has been limited. One reason suggested was that the states’
                       statutes permit rather than require such checks.17 The officials commented
                       that the fact that state statutes permit rather than require national
                       fingerprint-based checks of volunteers may derive from concerns about
                       the fees for such checks. According to these officials, the use of national
                       background checks may also have been limited because the FBI’s response
                       or turnaround time can be weeks or months, which may be unacceptable
                       for many organizations that use volunteers for seasonal or part-time
                       positions. In Texas, for instance, officials at the Volunteer Center of Dallas
                       County18 told us that state name-based searches generally meet their
                       clients’ needs because the fee ($4) is reasonable and the results are


                       16
                         Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, “I Have a Dream/Houston,” court-appointed special advocates
                       for abused or neglected children, and the Make a Wish Foundation.
                       17
                        In Tennessee, for example, as an option under state law, organizations can choose to provide
                       awareness training rather than request national background checks.
                       18
                        The Volunteer Center of Dallas County is a centralized unit through which nonprofit entities in Texas
                       can submit requests for name-based background searches of the state’s criminal history records. From
                       September 1993 through April 1996, the Center requested a total of about 34,200 name-based searches.



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                       available in a week or less.19 Thus, Center officials told us that they do not
                       plan to push for legislation requiring national fingerprint checks.

                       Another reason for limited fingerprint-based background checks of
                       volunteers may be lack of authorization awareness by certain groups. For
                       example, two of the youth-serving organizations that we contacted in
                       California were not aware that they are allowed to request national
                       fingerprint-based background checks.


                       A complete check of criminal history records has both FBI and state agency
Fees for Fingerprint   components. At the time of our review, the FBI’s fee for national
Checks Varied, and     fingerprint-based background checks was $18 for volunteers and $24 for
Some States Have Not   all others. The fee amount for volunteers equates to the FBI’s reported
                       costs. That is, according to expenditure and workload data provided us by
Calculated Their       the FBI, the Bureau projected that actual costs would average $18 for each
Actual Costs           fingerprint-based background search of criminal history records during
                       fiscal year 1996.20

                       Of the five states we studied, only California had recently (in
                       1996) calculated its actual costs ($32.62) for conducting a
                       fingerprint-based check of state records. This reported cost figure was
                       considerably higher than the NCPA-imposed fee cap for volunteers of $18.
                       However, California was not charging a fee for fingerprint-based checks of
                       volunteers at nonprofit youth-serving organizations.

                       Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials told us that the state
                       does not perform fingerprint-based checks of criminal history records for
                       purposes of licensing and employment.21 These officials explained that the
                       state’s computer system for fingerprint searches was not sufficient to
                       handle such requests. Thus, our questions regarding the fees for and the
                       actual costs of state fingerprint checks were not applicable to Florida.

                       By state statute, Tennessee’s fee structure matches that of the FBI; thus,
                       the state’s fee is $18 for volunteers and $24 for all others.22 Tennessee

                       19
                        In contrast, a national fingerprint-based background check would cost $33 ($15 payable to the state
                       and $18 to the FBI).
                       20
                         We did not audit or verify the actual costs reported by the FBI and the states.
                       21
                         For these noncriminal justice purposes, the state agency is to perform name-based searches even
                       though the search requests may be accompanied by fingerprint cards. However, if the requests are for
                       national searches, the state agency is to forward the fingerprint cards to the FBI.
                       22
                         Tenn. Code Ann. 38-6-103.



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                   Bureau of Investigation officials told us that given this statutory basis for
                   setting fees, the state has not attempted to calculate its actual costs.

                   Texas’ fee is $15 for fingerprint checks of applicants, whether volunteers
                   or nonvolunteers. This fee amount, according to Texas Department of
                   Pubic Safety officials, was first established in 1990 on the basis of a study
                   that calculated actual costs totaling $11.42 per applicant. However, the
                   study recommended a fee of $15 to ensure that Texas was consistent with
                   other states’ fees for similar services.

                   Virginia’s fee is $13 for fingerprint checks of applicants, whether
                   volunteers or nonvolunteers. Virginia Department of State Police officials
                   told us that this fee amount has been in effect for several years and, at the
                   time of implementation, was set to match the FBI’s then-current fee.

                   Without knowledge of actual costs, states that charge fees cannot ensure
                   compliance with federal law. Specifically, as amended in 1994, NCPA
                   provides that fees collected by authorized state agencies for
                   fingerprint-based background checks of volunteers may not exceed $18 or
                   the actual cost, whichever is less.


                   In the states we studied, because nonprofit youth-serving organizations
Voluntarism        had requested relatively few national fingerprint-based checks on
Apparently Not     volunteers, the applicable statutes and related fees do not appear to have
Affected by        negatively affected volunteerism. However, officials at the various
                   nonprofit organizations we contacted were concerned about state and FBI
Background Check   fees. Many of these officials commented that the fees were too high and,
Laws and Related   thus, if state laws were changed to require fingerprint checks, the number
                   of volunteers and/or the scope of program services probably would be
Fees, Although     reduced.
Concerns Exist
                   On the basis of discussions with officials at various national and local
                   nonprofit entities, we identified only two studies—completed in 1994 and
                   1995, respectively—that had attempted to assess the potential effects of
                   background check fees on volunteerism. Both studies were conducted or
                   sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America. The respondents to both studies
                   generally endorsed the concept that adult volunteers should be required to
                   have a background check, but the respondents also indicated that personal
                   cost was a factor influencing their willingness to maintain their volunteer
                   status. Due to sampling and other methodological limitations, however,
                   neither study can be used to draw conclusions about the overall scouting



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                        volunteer population. Also, the reported results are speculative because
                        reactions were solicited regarding fees not actually in place.

                        A minority view was presented by officials at 2 of the 20 nonprofit
                        organizations we contacted in the study states (see table I.1 in app. I).
                        These officials—who represented entities located in
                        California—commented that the current fees for national checks were
                        reasonable and easily could be borne by applicant volunteers. Here again,
                        however, these views are speculative because, at the time of our review,
                        neither of the two groups had requested any national fingerprint-based
                        background checks of volunteers.


                        In the opinion of officials at the organizations we contacted, the authority
National Checks May     to request national fingerprint-based checks is useful irrespective of the hit
Serve as a Deterrent    rates. These officials emphasized that although it is not quantifiable, the
and Also Can Identify   deterrent effect of the prospect of national background checks is
                        significant—and, indeed, is a factor perhaps more important than any
Some Unsuitable         other aspect of such checks. Where applicable, for example, experienced
Applicants Not          officials told us of instances where individuals reconsidered their interest
                        or withdrew their applications after learning that criminal history records
Readily Detectable by   would be checked. These officials acknowledged that such background
Other Means             checks may also deter a few qualified applicants who object to such
                        checks due to privacy or other concerns. On balance, however, the
                        officials said that the deterrent effect of national background checks was
                        largely positive, that is, unsuitable applicants were being deterred from
                        applying for child care-related positions.

                        Further, officials at most of the organizations we contacted said that
                        national fingerprint-based checks can be an important supplement to
                        traditional screening tools, such as personal interviews, reference queries
                        or follow-ups, and checks of local and state records. According to these
                        officials, in screening applicants, child care entities should not rely solely
                        upon checks of criminal history records—whether national, state, or
                        local—because such records may be incomplete or even nonexistent for
                        many unsuitable applicants. On the other hand, national fingerprint-based
                        background checks may be the only effective way to readily identify the
                        potentially worst abusers of children, that is, the pedophiles who change
                        their names and move from state to state to continue their sexually
                        perversive patterns of behavior. Further, national checks can identify
                        out-of-state criminal histories involving certain offenses that although not
                        directly involving child abuse, may nonetheless be important in



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    considering an applicant’s suitability. These offenses include, for example,
    offenses involving drug possession or trafficking, assault or other violent
    acts, and theft—and even the offense of driving while intoxicated, which
    may have particular relevance in checking prospective applicants for
    positions involving transportation of children.

    By focusing on selected job positions, organizations, or local jurisdictions
    within each state, we were able to identify situations clearly showing the
    usefulness of national fingerprint-based checks. For example:

•   An individual moved from Texas to California and obtained a teaching
    position in a special education program. In conducting a national
    background check in 1996, as requested by the California Commission on
    Teacher Credentialing, the FBI identified records showing that the
    individual had been convicted of sexual battery (rape) in Florida.
•   In one school district in Florida, national fingerprint checks of
    noninstructional staff hired in 1995 resulted in the firing of at least seven
    individuals. The search of criminal history records showed that each
    individual had been convicted for a serious offense, such as drug
    possession or trafficking or aggravated battery.
•   Fingerprint searches of prospective foster parents in Tennessee during the
    period October 1995 through May 1996 showed that 120 (or 9.3 percent) of
    1,293 applicants had criminal felony records. Of the 120 criminal history
    records, 58 involved out-of-state records, which were not identifiable
    based solely upon a search of Tennessee records.
•   In Texas, a local nonprofit youth-serving organization requested a total of
    98 national fingerprint-based checks from August 1, 1995, through July 17,
    1996. One applicant was rejected as a volunteer, in part, because the
    criminal history records showed a drug possession conviction.
•   In Virginia, from July 1993 through June 1996, one county requested
    approximately 3,800 state and national fingerprint checks on new-hire
    school employees. A total of 111 individuals were subsequently fired on
    the basis that they had lied on their applications (claiming no criminal
    conviction).

    Appendix IV presents more details about these and related examples.
    However, due to an absence of reporting requirements, we were unable to
    obtain comprehensive statistics on the use and results of national
    fingerprint background checks requested by applicable groups within the
    five states.




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                         In 1993, the FBI estimated that IAFIS development would extend into fiscal
IAFIS Completion         year 1998, with costs totaling about $520.5 million. In October 1995, the FBI
Targeted for July 1999   revised its schedule and cost estimates, projecting that completion of
                         system development would slip 18 months (to about June 1999) and that
                         costs would increase by over 20 percent (to between $630 million and
                         $640 million). In a March 1996 status report submitted to the Senate
                         Appropriations Committee, the FBI acknowledged that problems with
                         various components prompted a decision (in February 1996) to adopt a
                         new approach for developing and deploying IAFIS, which may lead to
                         further revision of schedule and cost estimates.23 In its next status report,
                         the FBI’s schedule and cost estimates were unchanged.24 However, in
                         December 1996, in commenting on a draft of our report, FBI officials told
                         us that the IAFIS completion date had been revised to July 1999.

                         The new approach for developing and deploying IAFIS—reflecting the
                         February 1996 decision mentioned above—called for the incremental
                         availability of certain functions earlier in the process, rather than offering
                         all IAFIS services at the final completion date. This incremental approach
                         consists of six distinct segments or “builds,” with sequentially targeted
                         completion dates (see app. V).

                         For purposes of NCPA-related national fingerprint-based background
                         checks, initial state participation in IAFIS is targeted for October 1998. At
                         that time, according to the FBI, a “small number” of other federal and state
                         users will be selected to implement IAFIS capabilities on a trial basis, which
                         would provide the FBI an opportunity to test the system in an operational
                         environment before accepting all other users in July 1999.

                         State officials in California, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia told us
                         that they are aware of the equipment and software specifications and
                         compatibility criteria necessary for interfacing with IAFIS and that their
                         respective states plan to use the system. California and Florida plan to
                         electronically process applicant fingerprint-based background checks
                         when the FBI allows selected states to test this process, currently
                         scheduled for October 1998. Tennessee and Virginia plan to interface with
                         IAFIS whenever the system is available, which may be the system’s planned
                         final completion date of July 1999. Texas plans to interface with IAFIS in
                         2000 after making necessary equipment purchases.


                         23
                           FBI, Status Report on Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (March 19, 1996).
                         24
                            FBI, Status Report on Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (Third Quarter, Fiscal
                         Year 1996).



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                     On December 6, 1996, we met with officials from the Department of
Agency Comments      Justice, including the Senior Counsel to the Director, Executive Office of
and Our Evaluation   the United States Attorneys, and representatives from the FBI’s Criminal
                     Justice Information Services to obtain comments on a draft of this report.
                     Agency officials commented that the conclusions reached in the report are
                     reasonable and that the report is sound and consistent with Department of
                     Justice studies, reports, and other information on the subject of
                     fingerprint-based background checks. Also, in addition to suggesting that
                     the discussion of certain background topics be expanded, the officials
                     provided technical comments and clarifications. We have incorporated
                     these suggestions, comments, and clarifications where appropriate in this
                     report.


                     We are sending copies of this report to the Senate Committee on the
                     Judiciary; the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee
                     on Crime, House Committee on the Judiciary; the Attorney General; the
                     Director, FBI; the Director, Office of Management and Budget; and other
                     interested parties. Copies will also be made available to others upon
                     request.

                     Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix VI. If you have any
                     questions about this report, please contact me on (202) 512-8777.

                     Sincerely yours,




                     Laurie E. Ekstrand
                     Associate Director, Administration
                       of Justice Issues




                     Page 13                        GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Contents



Letter                                                                                                  1


Appendix I                                                                                             18
                         Overview of Our Scope and Methodology                                         18
Objectives, Scope,       Scope and Methodology of Our Work Regarding States’ Statutes                  22
and Methodology            and Background Check Fees and Costs
                         Scope and Methodology of Our Work Regarding the Effect of                     23
                           State Laws and Fees on Voluntarism
                         Scope and Methodology of Our Work Regarding the Usefulness of                 23
                           National Fingerprint Checks as a Screening Tool
                         Scope and Methodology of Our Work Regarding IAFIS Status and                  24
                           Selected States’ Participation Plans

Appendix II                                                                                            26
                         California Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based                    26
Selected States’ Laws       Background Checks
Authorizing the FBI to   Florida Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based                       29
                            Background Checks
Conduct National         Tennessee Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based                     30
Fingerprint-Based           Background Checks
Criminal History         Texas Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based                         31
                            Background Checks
Records Checks of        Virginia Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based                      33
Persons Interacting         Background Checks
With Youth
Appendix III                                                                                           34
                         FBI Fees and Actual Costs                                                     34
Fingerprint-Based        States’ Fees and Actual Costs                                                 35
Background Check
Fees and Actual Costs




                         Page 14                         GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                        Contents




Appendix IV                                                                                         40

Specific Uses and
Results of
Fingerprint-Based
Background Checks
in Selected States
Appendix V                                                                                          48
                        Major Components of IAFIS                                                   48
IAFIS: System           Incremental Development Approach                                            49
Components,             General Observations Regarding States’ Participation in IAFIS               51
                        Selected States’ Criminal History Record Systems                            52
Incremental
Development
Approach, States’
Participation, and
Automated Criminal
History Records
Appendix VI                                                                                         53

Major Contributors to
This Report
Tables                  Table I.1: Public and Private Organizations Contacted                       21
                        Table II.1: Summary of California Statutes Authorizing National             28
                          Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care Providers
                        Table II.2: Summary of Florida Statutes Authorizing National                29
                          Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care Providers
                        Table II.3: Summary of Tennessee Statutes Authorizing National              31
                          Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care Providers
                        Table II.4: Summary of Texas Statutes Authorizing National                  32
                          Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care Providers
                        Table II.5: Summary of Virginia Statutes Authorizing National               33
                          Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care Providers
                        Table III.1: FBI’s Fees for Conducting Fingerprint-Based                    34
                          Searches of Criminal History Records




                        Page 15                       GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Contents




Table III.2: FBI’s Costs for Conducting Fingerprint-Based                   35
  Searches of Criminal History Records
Table III.3: Selected States’ Fees for Conducting                           35
  Fingerprint-Based Checks of Child Care Providers
Table III.4: California’s Fees for Conducting Fingerprint-Based             36
  Checks of Child Care Providers
Table V.1: Timelines, Users, and Description of Each IAFIS Build            50
Table V.2: Overview of Selected States’ Criminal History Records            52
  Systems




Abbreviations

FBI        Federal Bureau of Investigation
IAFIS      Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System
NCPA       National Child Protection Act of 1993


Page 16                       GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Page 17   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology


                      By letter dated January 3, 1996, the then-Chairman of the Subcommittee
                      on Youth Violence, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, requested that we
                      review certain implementation issues under the National Child Protection
                      Act of 1993 (NCPA) (P.L. 103-209), as amended by section 320928 of the
                      Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (P.L. 103-322). On
                      the basis of the requester’s specific interest, we focused our work on
                      children, even though NCPA’s provisions also apply to workers who have
                      responsibility for the safety and well-being of the elderly and the disabled.1
                      As agreed with the requester, we conducted work in five states (California,
                      Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) to address the following
                      questions:

                  •   To what extent have selected states enacted statutes authorizing national
                      background checks of child care providers? Also, what fees are charged
                      for background checks of volunteers, and how do these fees compare with
                      the actual costs in these states?
                  •   What effects have these states’ laws and related fees had on volunteerism?
                      For instance, have the laws and fees discouraged volunteers from
                      participating in child care programs at nonprofit entities?
                  •   Have selected state agencies and other organizations found national
                      checks a useful screening tool? More specifically, for selected job or
                      position categories in selected jurisdictions, how often have
                      fingerprint-based background checks identified individuals with criminal
                      histories?
                  •   What is the status of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification
                      System (IAFIS) being developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
                      (FBI), and what are the selected states’ plans for using the system when it
                      becomes available?


                      Initially, to obtain a broad understanding of NCPA requirements and
Overview of Our       implementation, state laws authorizing background criminal history
Scope and             checks, and available statistics and related information regarding child
Methodology           abuse, we contacted relevant public and private organizations that could
                      provide national perspectives. At the federal level, for example, the FBI is
                      responsible not only for developing IAFIS but also for reviewing and
                      approving state laws that authorize national fingerprint-based searches of
                      criminal history records. Another federal agency we contacted is the
                      Department of Health and Human Service’s National Center on Child


                      1
                       The scope of our work did not include individuals who work with children at federal facilities, such as
                      child care centers at federal offices or military bases. Fingerprint-based background checks of these
                      workers are required by the Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990, as amended (42 U.S.C. 13041).



                      Page 18                                   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
    Appendix I
    Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




    Abuse and Neglect. The Center administers the National Clearinghouse on
    Child Abuse and Neglect Information.

    A January 1995 report (Effective Screening of Child Care and Youth
    Service Workers) by the American Bar Association Center on Children and
    the Law also provided useful overview perspectives.2 Among other
    information, for example, the report presented the results of a national
    survey of the screening practices of approximately 3,800 child- and
    youth-serving agencies.

    Further, we contacted the National Collaboration for Youth, which is an
    affinity group of the National Assembly of National Voluntary Health and
    Social Welfare Organizations.3 The Collaboration has published guidance
    entitled Principles for Model State Legislation Implementing the National
    Child Protection Act (January 15, 1995).

    To obtain more detailed information about specific states’ automated
    fingerprint systems and statutory criminal history check provisions, as
    well as the views and concerns of organizations that recruit or use
    volunteers, we contacted relevant public agencies and at least three
    nonprofit entities in each of five judgmentally selected states—California,
    Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Generally, these selections were
    among the states suggested to us by officials at the public and private
    organizations mentioned above, that is, knowledgeable officials with
    national perspectives. Among other considerations, we selected states to
    reflect a range of (1) laws authorizing background checks and
    (2) experiences with automated fingerprint services. Also, in addition to
    geographical coverage, some specific factors we considered in selecting
    these five states are as follows:

•   California leads all states in number of youth under age 18, according to
    U.S. Bureau of the Census data.
•   Florida, according to Census Bureau data, is the fourth most populous
    state in terms of youth under age 18. Also, Florida law requires that
    instructional and noninstructional personnel hired to fill positions


    2
    The report was prepared under a grant by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and
    Delinquency Prevention.
    3
     Collaboration members are: American Red Cross; Association of Junior Leagues International; Big
    Brothers/Big Sisters of America; Boy Scouts of America; Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Camp Fire
    Boys & Girls; Child Welfare League of America; 4-H, Extension Service; Girl Scouts of the USA; Girls
    Incorporated; National Network of Runaway and Youth Services; WAVE, Inc.; YMCA of the USA; and
    YWCA of the USA.



    Page 19                                  GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
    Appendix I
    Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




    involving direct contact with students shall, upon employment, file a
    complete set of fingerprints.
•   Tennessee was of specific interest to the requester. Under Tennessee law,
    effective January 1994, all persons applying for work (as a paid employee
    or as a volunteer) with children at a child welfare agency or with a
    religious, charitable, scientific, educational, athletic, or youth-serving
    organization may be required to (1) submit a fingerprint sample for
    criminal history background checks, or (2) attend a comprehensive youth
    protection training program, or (3) both submit a fingerprint sample and
    attend training.
•   Texas, according to Census Bureau data, is the second most populous
    state in terms of youth under age 18. Also, the Volunteer Center of Dallas
    County (which recruits volunteers for more than 100 nonprofit entities
    located in the North Texas area) is the largest such centralized referral
    agency in the nation.
•   According to the Virginia Department of Police, as of 1996, 42 of the state’s
    135 public school district boards are required by state law to have school
    employee applicants undergo a national fingerprint check.

    In each of these states, we contacted the public agency responsible for
    criminal history records and/or fingerprint identification services to
    determine automation status and plans for connecting with IAFIS. Also, to
    determine trends in the number of reported child abuse cases, we
    contacted each state’s applicable social services agency. Further, in these
    5 states, we contacted a total of 20 nonprofit entities—at least 3 in each
    state. Generally, we tried to ensure that we selected a variety of nonprofit
    entities on the basis of such factors as size (including some large,
    nationally affiliated entities as well as some smaller, independent local
    entities); gender of the youth served (boys, girls, or both); and functions
    (e.g., sporting, educational, and religious activities).

    Table I.1 lists all of the public (federal and state) and private organizations
    we contacted. Also, further details about the scope and methodology of
    our work regarding each of the objectives are presented in separate
    sections below.




    Page 20                              GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                Appendix I
                                Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




Table I.1: Public and Private
Organizations Contacted
                                Federal organizations:
                                  Department of Health and Human Services:
                                  —National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect
                                  Department of Justice:
                                  —Bureau of Justice Statistics
                                  —Criminal Division, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section
                                  —FBI, Criminal Justice Information Services Division
                                  —Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
                                National organizations:
                                 American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law (Washington, DC)
                                 Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America (Philadelphia, PA)
                                 Boy Scouts of America (Irving, TX)
                                 National Assembly of National Voluntary Health and Social Welfare Organizations
                                 (Washington, DC)
                                 National Association of State Directors for Teacher Education and Certification (Seattle,
                                 WA)
                                 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (Arlington, VA)
                                 National Center for the Prosecution of Child Abuse (Alexandria, VA)
                                 National Collaboration for Youth (Washington, DC)
                                 National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (Chicago, IL)
                                 National Conference of State Legislatures (Denver, CO)
                                 SEARCH Group, Inc. (Sacramento, CA)
                                California public organizations (Sacramento):
                                 California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
                                 Department of Justice
                                 —Bureau of Criminal Identification and Information
                                 Department of Social Services
                                 —Adoptions Services Bureau
                                 —Community Care Licensing Division, Criminal Records Clearance Bureau
                                California private organizations:
                                 Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento
                                 Sacramento Court Appointed Special Advocate Program
                                 Sacramento Student Buddy Program
                                Florida public organizations (Tallahassee):
                                  Bureau of Teacher Certification
                                  Commission on Community Service
                                  Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, Division of Children and Family
                                  Services
                                  —District Two
                                  —Florida Abuse Registry
                                  Department of Law Enforcement, Division of Criminal Justice Information Systems
                                  Leon County School District
                                Florida private organizations:
                                  American Red Cross, Capital Area Chapter (Tallahassee)
                                  Boy Scouts of America, South Florida Council (Miami)
                                  East Hill Baptist Church (Tallahassee)
                                  Florida Recreation and Park Association, Inc. (Tallahassee)
                                  Volunteer Center of Tallahassee, Sponsored by the United Way of the Big Bend
                                  (Tallahassee)
                                                                                                               (continued)




                                Page 21                              GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                       Appendix I
                       Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




                       Tennessee public organizations (Nashville):
                         Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
                         —Information Systems Division
                         —Records and Identification Unit
                         Department of Human Services
                       Tennessee private organizations:
                         Boy Scouts of America, Middle Tennessee Council (Nashville)
                         Buddies of Nashville (an affiliate of Big Brothers/Big Sisters)
                         Volunteer Center of Nashville
                       Texas public organizations (Austin):
                         Department of Protective and Regulatory Services
                         Texas Education Agency
                         Department of Public Safety
                       Texas private organizations:
                         Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America (Austin)
                         North Texas State Soccer Association (Carrollton)
                         St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church (Plano)
                         Tejas Girl Scout Council, Inc. (Dallas)
                         Volunteer Center of Dallas County (Dallas)
                         YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas (Dallas)
                       Virginia public organizations:
                         Chesterfield County Public Schools (Chesterfield County)
                         Department of Social Services (Richmond)
                         —Child Abuse and Neglect Information Systems Division
                         —Foster Care and Adoptions
                         —Office of Volunteerism
                         Department of State Police, Criminal Records Division (Richmond)
                         Department of Youth and Family Services, Background
                         Investigations Unit (Richmond)
                         Henrico County Public Schools (Henrico County)


                       To identify applicable legislation, we contacted the FBI’s Criminal Justice
Scope and              Information Services Division, which is responsible for approving state
Methodology of Our     statutes that authorize child care-related organizations to request national
Work Regarding         fingerprint-based background checks. The FBI provided us its list of
                       applicable state statutes, which were approved as of March 1996. In
States’ Statutes and   reference to the five study states, we verified the accuracy and
Background Check       completeness of the FBI’s list by contacting appropriate officials in each
                       state and by reviewing each statute. Also, in reviewing the statutes, we
Fees and Costs         looked for similarities and differences in terms of the various positions or
                       work settings covered and whether national background checks were
                       mandatory or simply permitted.

                       Further, we contacted the FBI and applicable law enforcement agencies in
                       the five selected states to determine their fee policies and amounts. During
                       these contacts, we inquired whether the respective jurisdiction’s fees for



                       Page 22                              GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                        Appendix I
                        Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




                        background checks differentiated, for example, between for-profit and
                        nonprofit entities and between paid employees and volunteers. Further, at
                        the FBI and in the five state jurisdictions, we inquired about the availability
                        of records, studies, or formulas showing how fees compare to the actual
                        costs of conducting a background check. We reviewed available data on
                        actual costs, but the scope of our work did not constitute a financial audit
                        of costs.


                        To identify whether any nonprofit entities have studied or self-reported on
Scope and               the effects of criminal history background check laws and the related fees
Methodology of Our      applicable to volunteers at their organizations, we interviewed officials at
Work Regarding the      (1) the National Collaboration for Youth; (2) the headquarters of two
                        member organizations of the Collaboration, i.e., Boy Scouts of America
Effect of State Laws    and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America; and (3) at least three nonprofit
and Fees on             entities in each of the five selected states. As applicable and permitted by
                        available data, we reviewed the scope and methodology of the studies
Voluntarism             identified by these contacts. To supplement the findings of any available
                        studies regarding whether fees discourage volunteers from participating in
                        child care programs, we obtained opinions, anecdotes, and other pertinent
                        information from officials at the various national and local nonprofit
                        entities contacted. The interview data—opinions and related
                        information—are not projectable to nor representative of all nonprofit
                        entities in the respective states.


                        Regarding the usefulness of national fingerprint-based background checks
Scope and               of applicants for positions involving interaction with children, we obtained
Methodology of Our      both quantitative data (e.g., number of applicants disqualified on the basis
Work Regarding the      of criminal histories) and qualitative data (e.g., opinions offered by
                        experienced managers responsible for personnel decisions at various
Usefulness of           organizations). In so doing, we first reviewed the five study states’ criminal
National Fingerprint    history background check laws, which are approved by the FBI and
                        authorize national fingerprint-based background checks for paid or
Checks as a Screening   volunteer positions involving child care. Within each of the five states, for
Tool                    selected jobs, work settings, or jurisdictions, we obtained available data
                        on the number of national fingerprint checks requested from the FBI and,
                        in turn, the number of “hits” based on criminal histories. Further, to
                        determine whether these criminal history records were used or considered
                        in actual personnel decisions, we followed up and contacted one or more
                        applicable organizations at the local level. For example, if we were able to
                        obtain hit data for schoolteachers in a given state, we contacted one or



                        Page 23                              GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                        Appendix I
                        Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




                        more local school districts to determine how many applicants were denied
                        employment on the basis of the fingerprint-based background check.

                        To obtain additional information about the usefulness of national
                        fingerprint-based background checks of child care workers, we discussed
                        the merits and problems of such checks with applicable public agency
                        officials in each of the five selected states, as well as with officials of
                        various national and local nonprofit organizations (see tab. I.1).

                        Because our work covered only certain child care positions and locations
                        within selected states, our findings may not be representative of statewide
                        conditions in the respective state. Further, the findings cannot be
                        projected to other states with similar positions because, among other
                        reasons, state laws vary as to what constitutes a disqualifying crime.


                        In determining the status of IAFIS, we focused on the FBI’s implementation
Scope and               schedule by reviewing available planning documents and status reports
Methodology of Our      prepared by the Bureau. We did not undertake a detailed systems review;
Work Regarding IAFIS    that is, we did not evaluate the technical merits of the design
                        configurations nor of the performance objectives.
Status and Selected
States’ Participation   Similarly, in contacting relevant agencies in five states, we did not
                        undertake detailed systems reviews. Rather, our primary inquiries
Plans                   involved the extent to which each state planned to participate in IAFIS.
                        Thus, for example, we inquired as to whether each state’s existing (or
                        planned) automated fingerprint identification system was (would be)
                        compatible with the standards necessary to connect or interface with IAFIS.
                        Further, because effective background checks depend upon the
                        availability of reliable records, we obtained information about the status of
                        the five states’ efforts to automate their criminal history records, including
                        final dispositions of cases. To obtain this status information, we contacted
                        the applicable state agencies responsible for managing criminal history
                        records, and we also reviewed the results of the most recent biennial
                        survey conducted by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice
                        Statistics and SEARCH Group, Inc.4

                        On December 6, 1996, we met with officials from the Department of
                        Justice, including the Senior Counsel to the Director, Executive Office of
                        the United States Attorneys, and representatives from the FBI’s Criminal

                        4
                         SEARCH Group, Inc., based in Sacramento, California, is The National Consortium of Justice
                        Information and Statistics.



                        Page 24                                 GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Appendix I
Objectives, Scope, and Methodology




Justice Information Services to obtain comments on a draft of this report.
Agency officials commented that the conclusions reached in the report are
reasonable. The officials suggested that the discussion of certain
background topics be expanded, and provided technical comments and
clarifications. We have incorporated these suggestions, comments, and
clarifications where appropriate into the report.




Page 25                              GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Appendix II

Selected States’ Laws Authorizing the FBI to
Conduct National Fingerprint-Based
Criminal History Records Checks of Persons
Interacting With Youth
                       The authority for the FBI to conduct criminal record checks for civil
                       (noncriminal justice) licensing or employment purposes is based upon
                       Public Law 92-544, enacted in 1972. Pursuant to the 1972 act, the FBI is
                       authorized to exchange identification records with officials of state and
                       local governments for purposes of licensing and employment if authorized
                       by a state statute that has been approved by the U.S. Attorney General.
                       The Access Integrity Unit within the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information
                       Services Division is responsible for reviewing state statutes to determine if
                       the statutes meet the applicable standards. The current standards used by
                       the FBI in approving state statutes have been established by a series of
                       memoranda issued by the Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Justice.
                       Among other things, a state’s statutes must (1) specify the categories of
                       jobs or positions covered; (2) require fingerprinting of the employee,
                       licensee, or volunteer; and (3) authorize the use of FBI records for checking
                       criminal history records of the applicant.

                       NCPA did not give the states any new access to national fingerprint-based
                       background checks and did not mandate the states to pass laws. Rather,
                       NCPA highlighted the need for such checks of criminal history records and
                       encouraged the states to pass appropriate legislation.

                       According to Access Integrity Unit officials, as of March 1996, a total of 37
                       states had enacted one or more child care-related laws meeting the
                       requisite criteria for the FBI to conduct fingerprint-based national checks
                       of criminal history records.1 The following sections and tables summarize
                       the applicable child care-related criminal history background check
                       statutes for each of the states covered in our review—California, Florida,
                       Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.


                       According to California officials, as early as the 1970s, California statutes
California Statutes    authorized national fingerprint-based criminal history background checks
Authorizing National   for selected child care groups. Since then, as summarized in table II.1,
Fingerprint-Based      California laws have been enacted or amended to either require or permit
                       background checks on many categories of persons (including volunteers
Background Checks      in some instances) applying to work with or provide care for children in
                       California. Although several of the California statutes do not specifically
                       refer to a national check, the statutes either require or permit a state
                       background check. According to California Department of Justice
                       officials, the state statutes under which agencies submit applicant

                       1
                        The other 13 states, those without FBI-approved criminal history background check statutes, are
                       Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska,
                       New Hampshire, Utah, and Vermont.



                       Page 26                                 GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
    Appendix II
    Selected States’ Laws Authorizing the FBI to
    Conduct National Fingerprint-Based
    Criminal History Records Checks of Persons
    Interacting With Youth




    fingerprints for national background checks have all been previously
    approved by the FBI. However, in recognizing that some of these statutes
    need to be revised to meet current federal standards, the officials
    commented substantially as follows:

•   Over the years, the requirements or standards for access to FBI criminal
    history record information have evolved from a series of memoranda
    issued by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.
    Therefore, not all of California’s previously approved statutes meet the
    current requirements or standards. However, because California was
    granted prior authorization, the FBI has indicated that it will accept all
    fingerprint submission categories that were previously approved. The
    California Department of Justice has plans to advise relevant licensing and
    employment agencies that certain state statutes need to be revised to meet
    current standards for FBI access.

    According to statistics provided by the California Department of Justice,
    from July 1995 through June 1996, California requested 147,791 national
    fingerprint checks for applicant background checks, of which 50,434 were
    for peace officers and criminal justice employees. A California Department
    of Justice official told us that the majority of the remaining 97,357 national
    checks were submitted under child care-related statutes.2 For example,
    the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing requested 27,564
    national checks for applicants from July 1995 through June 1996.




    2
     The official also told us that 12 of the 97,357 national checks were submitted for volunteers at
    nonprofit youth-serving organizations.



    Page 27                                    GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                           Appendix II
                                           Selected States’ Laws Authorizing the FBI to
                                           Conduct National Fingerprint-Based
                                           Criminal History Records Checks of Persons
                                           Interacting With Youth




Table II.1: Summary of California Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care
Providers
                                                                                              National criminal records
California statutes               Statute covers:                 Personnel covered           checks
Cal. Educ. Code 44340 and       Teacher certification                Applicants to be teachers              State checks permitted; no
44341                                                                                                       reference to national checksa
Cal. Educ. Code 45125           Positions in certain school          New and current employees              State checks required; no
                                districts that do not require                                               reference to national checksa
                                certification
Cal. Vehicle Code 12517.3 and   Certification to drive a school      Applicants to be drivers               Permitted
12517.4                         bus
Cal. Educ. Code 44237           Private school personnel who         New employees who have                 Required
                                do not possess valid state           contact with minors
                                teaching credentials
Cal. Educ. Code 58751           Staff for extended school day     Volunteers and employees                  Required
                                programs with frequent and
                                routine contact with participants
Cal. Health and Safety Code     Personnel of day care facilities,    Applicants, persons other than State checks required; no
1522 and 1596.871               foster family homes, family day      clients residing in the facilities, reference to national checksa,b
                                care facilities, community care      and employees having frequent
                                facilities, and certified family     and routine contact with children
                                homes for children
Cal. Family Code 8712, 8811,    Adoptions (various types)            Applicants for adoptions               State checks permitted; no
8908, and 9000-9007                                                                                         reference to national checksa,b
Cal. Penal Code 11105.3         Human resource agency           Applicants for a license, or for a State checks permitted; no
                                (public or private) positions   volunteer or an employment         reference to national checksa
                                involving supervisory or        position
                                disciplinary power over persons
                                under care
Cal. Educ. Code 10911.5         Public recreation program            New and current employees              State checks required; no
                                positions involving direct                                                  reference to national checksa
                                contact with children
Cal. Educ. Code 8171 and 8172   Registered child care providers Applicants to be providers                  Permitted
                                           a
                                            Over the years, there have been changes in federal standards for access to criminal history
                                           information maintained in FBI files. Although current federal standards require that state statutes
                                           must expressly or by implication authorize use of FBI records for applicant background checks,
                                           several California laws do not contain explicit language regarding this requirement. However,
                                           according to California Department of Justice officials, the FBI has indicated it will continue
                                           conducting national checks on California applicants while California updates its laws to meet
                                           current standards.
                                           b
                                            California Department of Social Services regulations require FBI background checks only for
                                           applicants who have not lived in California for the past 2 years or when there is suspicion that the
                                           applicant committed an offense in another state.

                                           Source: GAO summary of California statutes.




                                           Page 28                                   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                             Appendix II
                                             Selected States’ Laws Authorizing the FBI to
                                             Conduct National Fingerprint-Based
                                             Criminal History Records Checks of Persons
                                             Interacting With Youth




                                             As table II.2 shows, Florida statutes call for mandatory rather than
Florida Statutes                             permissive checks and cover a range of positions or work settings dealing
Authorizing National                         with children. The statutes cover personnel in most child care-related
Fingerprint-Based                            settings, except youth-serving organizations. In calendar year 1995, the
                                             Florida Department of Law Enforcement received 270,435 requests for
Background Checks                            national fingerprint-based checks of noncriminal justice applicants.
                                             Department officials, however, were unable to quantify exactly how many
                                             of these requests were for personnel in or applying for positions in work
                                             settings involving child care. However, officials at the Florida Department
                                             of Health and Rehabilitative Services said they requested around 100,000
                                             national checks in 1995, and officials at the Florida Department of
                                             Education said they requested around 25,000 that year.


Table II.2 : Summary of Florida Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care
Providers
                                                                                              National criminal records
Florida statutesa                 Statute covers:                Personnel covered            checks
Fla. Stat. Ann. 231.17 and        Teacher certification               Applicants for certification    Required
231.173
Fla. Stat. Ann. 231.02            School district personnel           New employees                   Required
                                  (instructional and
                                  noninstructional) in positions
                                  requiring direct contact with
                                  studentsb
Fla. Stat. Ann. 231.1725          Substitute teachers,                New employees                   Required
                                  nondegreed teachers of career
                                  education, and noncertified
                                  teachers in critical teacher
                                  shortage areas
Fla. Stat. Ann. 231.1712          Instructional positions requiring   New employees                   Required
                                  a teaching certificate in public
                                  and nonpublic schools
Fla. Stat. Ann. 232.258           After-school programs               New employees                   Required
Fla. Stat. Ann. 230.2305          Prekindergarten early               New employees                   Required
                                  intervention programs
Fla. Stat. Ann. 110.1127          Staff at the Florida Department     Employees                       Required
                                  of Health and Rehabilitative
                                  Services in positions providing
                                  care to children for 15 hours or
                                  more per week
Fla. Stat. Ann. 402.301-402.319   Licensed positions—in child         Volunteers,c employees,         Required
and 409.175                       care facilities, family foster      owners, and operators
                                  homes, residential child care
                                  facilities, and child placing
                                  agencies—that involve direct
                                  contact with children
                                                                                                                          (continued)


                                             Page 29                                GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                         Appendix II
                                         Selected States’ Laws Authorizing the FBI to
                                         Conduct National Fingerprint-Based
                                         Criminal History Records Checks of Persons
                                         Interacting With Youth




                                                                                                         National criminal records
Florida statutesa             Statute covers:                      Personnel covered                     checks
Fla. Stat. Ann. 285.18        Certain Indian tribe programs   Employees                                  Required
                              (education, Head Start, and day
                              care)
Fla. Stat. Ann. 397.311 and   Substance abuse provider         Owners, directors, employees,             Required
397.451                       personnel having direct contact and volunteersc
                              with specified clients under the
                              age of 18
Fla. Stat. Ann. 39.001        Personnel in facilities providing    Owners, operators, employees,         Required
                              state-contracted programs for        and volunteersc
                              children

                                         a
                                           The state’s general statutory authority for conducting employment background checks is Florida
                                         Statutes Annotated Chapter 435. This chapter applies whenever background checks for
                                         employment are required by another provision of Florida law.
                                         b
                                          A 1996 amendment extended coverage to include all personnel currently employed who have
                                         not been fingerprinted, in addition to new employees. All certified personnel must be fingerprinted
                                         by January 1, 1997, and all other personnel must be fingerprinted by January 1, 1998.
                                         c
                                           A volunteer who assists on an intermittent basis for less than 40 hours per month need not be
                                         checked if the volunteer is under direct and constant supervision by persons who meet the
                                         background requirements.

                                         Source: GAO summary of Florida statutes.




                                         Tennessee statutes authorizing national fingerprint-based criminal history
Tennessee Statutes                       background checks became effective January 1, 1994. As table II.3 shows,
Authorizing National                     the laws cover a broad range of positions or work settings involving
Fingerprint-Based                        interaction with children in Tennessee. The statutes permit rather than
                                         require national checks and apply to new applicants only; that is, the
Background Checks                        statutes do not cover persons who were already in paid or volunteer
                                         positions as of January 1, 1994. Under these statutes, Tennessee agencies
                                         and organizations requested 1,522 national fingerprint checks for child
                                         care provider applicants during calendar year 1995. Only 2 of the 1,522
                                         checks were for volunteer applicants.




                                         Page 30                                  GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                          Appendix II
                                          Selected States’ Laws Authorizing the FBI to
                                          Conduct National Fingerprint-Based
                                          Criminal History Records Checks of Persons
                                          Interacting With Youth




Table II.3: Summary of Tennessee Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care
Providers
                                                                                            National criminal records
Tennessee statutesa            Statute covers:                 Personnel covered            checks
Tenn. Code Ann. 49-5-413       Public schoolteachers                Applicants to be teachers            Permitted
Tenn. Code Ann. 71-3-533       Child welfare agency positions       Applicants to be volunteers or       Permitted
                               that involve working with            employees
                               children
Tenn. Code Ann. 37-1-414       Religious, charitable, scientific,   Applicants to be volunteers or       Permitted
                               educational, athletic, or youth      employees
                               service institutions or
                               organizations that work with
                               children
                                          a
                                            The state’s general statutory authority for requesting the FBI to conduct national fingerprint
                                          checks is Tennessee Code Annotated 38-6-114. This statute authorizes the Tennessee Bureau of
                                          Investigation to submit fingerprints for local boards of education and other organizations to the
                                          FBI.

                                          Source: GAO summary of Tennessee statutes.




                                          All the child care-related provisions of Texas law permit rather than
Texas Statutes                            require national checks. As table II.4 shows, many child care-related
Authorizing National                      organizations in Texas are authorized to request national fingerprint-based
Fingerprint-Based                         background checks. However, in response to our inquiries, officials at the
                                          Texas Department of Public Safety said they were aware of very few child
Background Checks                         care-related national checks. Similarly, officials at the Texas Education
                                          Agency said they did not know if any school districts in the state had
                                          requested such checks. Officials at the Texas Department of Protective
                                          and Regulatory Services said the Department requested 1,195 national
                                          fingerprint-based checks in calendar year 1995, primarily on applicants
                                          providing child care.




                                          Page 31                                  GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                           Appendix II
                                           Selected States’ Laws Authorizing the FBI to
                                           Conduct National Fingerprint-Based
                                           Criminal History Records Checks of Persons
                                           Interacting With Youth




Table II.4 : Summary of Texas Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care Providers
                                                                                             National criminal records
Texas statutesa                  Statute covers:                Personnel covered            checks
Tex. Code Ann. 411.090          Applicants for teacher                    Applicants to be teachers           Permitted
                                certification
Tex. Code Ann. 411.097          Instructional and                         Applicants to be volunteers,        Permitted
                                noninstructional positions in             employees, or transportation
                                schools b                                 contractors
Tex. Code Ann. 411.114          License, registration, or                 Volunteers and employees            Permitted
                                certification for child care
                                facility or registered family
                                home; Texas Department of
                                Protective and Regulatory
                                Services positions involving
                                direct delivery of protective
                                services to children; volunteer
                                positions at specified nonprofit
                                organizations, including the
                                “I Have a Dream/Houston”
                                program and the local affiliates
                                of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of
                                Americac
Tex. Code Ann. 411.102          Adults living in a McGruff                Residents                           Permitted
                                Housed
Tex. Code Ann. 411.103          Participant in a child watch              Volunteers                          Permitted
                                program who has given written
                                consent to disclosure of
                                criminal history record
                                informatione
                                           a
                                             The state’s general statutory authority for requesting the FBI to conduct national fingerprint
                                           checks is Texas Code Annotated 411.087. This statute permits authorized entities to obtain
                                           criminal history record information maintained by the FBI.
                                           b
                                            The statute covers public schools, charter schools, private schools, regional educational service
                                           centers, and educational shared services arrangements.
                                           c
                                               This is a partial listing of positions covered.
                                           d
                                               A McGruff House is a temporary haven for school-age children.
                                           e
                                             A child watch program is designed to protect schoolchildren by having parents or volunteers
                                           patrol their residential neighborhoods and schools to watch for suspicious activity, dangers, and
                                           threats to children.

                                           Source: GAO summary of Texas statutes.




                                           Page 32                                        GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                          Appendix II
                                          Selected States’ Laws Authorizing the FBI to
                                          Conduct National Fingerprint-Based
                                          Criminal History Records Checks of Persons
                                          Interacting With Youth




                                          At the time of our review, Virginia statutes authorizing national
Virginia Statutes                         fingerprint-based criminal history background checks of persons
Authorizing National                      interacting with children in Virginia were limited to public schools and
Fingerprint-Based                         juvenile residential facilities, as table II.5 shows. The statutes are
                                          mandatory rather than permissive and apply only to persons who accept a
Background Checks                         paid or volunteer position, as applicable, after the effective date of the
                                          respective statute. According to Virginia Department of State Police
                                          officials, in calendar year 1995, approximately 10,000 national
                                          fingerprint-based criminal history background checks were conducted for
                                          the state’s public schools, and approximately 3,000 national checks were
                                          conducted for the state’s juvenile residential facilities.


Table II.5: Summary of Virginia Statutes Authorizing National Fingerprint-Based Background Checks of Child Care
Providers
                                                                                              National criminal records
Virginia statutes                 Statute covers:                Personnel covered            checks
Va. Code Ann. 22.1-296.2        Positions in designated public      Applicants                             Required
                                schoolsa
Va. Code Ann. 63.1-248.7:2      State-regulated or               Volunteers and employees—if               Required
                                state-operated residential       not employed at that facility
                                juvenile facility positions that before July 1, 1994
                                involve providing services alone
                                on a regular basis to juveniles
                                          a
                                            At the time of our review, 42 of Virginia’s 135 school boards were required to request state and
                                          national fingerprint-based background checks of applicants as a condition of employment. A
                                          1996 provision extended Virginia law to require a national fingerprint-based background check as
                                          a condition of employment at certain private or parochial schools. The effective date of this law is
                                          July 1, 1997 (Va. Code Ann. 22.1-296.3).

                                          Source: GAO summary of Virginia statutes.




                                          Page 33                                   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Appendix III

Fingerprint-Based Background Check Fees
and Actual Costs

                                         Under NCPA, the fees collected by the FBI and authorized state agencies,
                                         respectively, for fingerprint-based records checks of volunteers with a
                                         qualified entity1 may not exceed $18 or the actual cost, whichever is less.
                                         Also, the act specifies that the states shall establish fee systems (for
                                         fingerprint background checks) that ensure that fees to nonprofit entities
                                         for background checks do not discourage volunteers from participating in
                                         child care programs.


                                         At the time of our review, the FBI’s fee for national fingerprint-based
FBI Fees and Actual                      criminal history checks was $18 for volunteers and $24 for all others.
Costs                                    Before NCPA was amended in 1994, the FBI’s user fee policy was to charge
                                         $24 for processing each applicant’s fingerprint card. Table III.1 shows FBI
                                         fees for conducting fingerprint-based searches of criminal history records
                                         since October 1989.

Table III.1: FBI’s Fees for Conducting
Fingerprint-Based Searches of                                                                    Fees for billing          Fees for nonbilling
Criminal History Records                 Effective date                                                  statesa                       states
                                         10-01-89                                                               $13                             $14
                                         03-01-90                                                                19                             20
                                         10-01-90                                                                21                             23
                                         01-03-94                                                                22                             24
                                                                                                                    b
                                         07-17-95                                                       22 and 16                     24 and 18b
                                         a
                                           Most states (45) have cumulative fee accounts, with balance amounts paid each month to the
                                         FBI; these states are referred to as “billing” states. As an incentive for this type of consolidated
                                         accounting arrangement, the FBI allows these states to offset their administrative costs by
                                         retaining a “handling charge” portion ($2) of the normal fees, which is applicable to the
                                         “nonbilling” states. The five nonbilling states are Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts,
                                         and Pennsylvania.
                                         b
                                             The lower fee amount applies to volunteers.

                                         Source: FBI.



                                         According to expenditure and workload data provided to us by the FBI, the
                                         Bureau’s costs were projected to average $18 for each fingerprint-based
                                         background search of criminal history records during fiscal year 1996. As
                                         table III.2 shows, this average included a handling charge of $2. Also, a
                                         surcharge of $6 was applied for each set of fingerprints processed for
                                         nonvolunteers.

                                         1
                                          NCPA defines “qualified entity” as a business or organization, whether public, private, for-profit,
                                         not-for-profit, or voluntary, that provides child care or child care placement services, including a
                                         business or organization that licenses or certifies others to provide child care or child care placement
                                         services. 42 U.S.C. 5119c(10).



                                         Page 34                                    GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                          Appendix III
                                          Fingerprint-Based Background Check Fees
                                          and Actual Costs




Table III.2: FBI’s Costs for Conducting
Fingerprint-Based Searches of                                                                                         Average costs for each
Criminal History Records (Fiscal Year     Cost or object classification                                                    set of fingerprints
1996)                                     Personnel                                                                                         $9.37
                                          Payroll benefits                                                                                   2.42
                                          Rent, mail, and other                                                                              2.29
                                          Equipment                                                                                          0.37
                                          Supplies                                                                                           0.22
                                          Travel                                                                                             0.13
                                          Printing                                                                                           0.02
                                          Other services                                                                                     1.18
                                          Handling charge                                                                                    2.00a
                                              Subtotal                                                                                     $18.00
                                          Surcharge                                                                                          6.00b
                                          Total                                                                                            $24.00
                                          a
                                           As noted in table III.1, the “billing” states do not pay the FBI this amount partly because
                                          cumulative fee accounts reduce the FBI’s need to process or handle individual checks.
                                          b
                                           Under 28 U.S.C. 534, the FBI was authorized to use a surcharge to offset the costs of automation
                                          of fingerprint identification services beginning in fiscal year 1991.

                                          Source: FBI.




                                          A complete check of criminal history records has both FBI and state agency
States’ Fees and                          components. Thus, in addition to the national check, four of the five states
Actual Costs                              we studied (California, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) performed a
                                          fingerprint-based search of state records. Table III.3 shows selected states’
                                          fees for conducting fingerprint-based checks of individuals seeking paid or
                                          volunteer positions with organizations serving children.

Table III.3: Selected States’ Fees for
Conducting Fingerprint-Based Checks       State                                                 Paid employees            Volunteers
of Child Care Providers                   California                                            $0, $32, $42, or $52      $0, $32, 42, or $52
                                          Floridaa                                              not applicable            not applicable
                                          Tennessee                                             24                        18
                                          Texas                                                 15                        15
                                          Virginia                                              13                        13
                                          a
                                           At the time of our review, Florida did not perform state fingerprint-based checks of criminal
                                          history records for purposes of employment and licensing.

                                          Source: Information provided to GAO by applicable state agencies.




                                          Page 35                                   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                              Appendix III
                                              Fingerprint-Based Background Check Fees
                                              and Actual Costs




California                                    As table III.4 shows, California’s fees for fingerprint checks of child care
                                              provider applicants ranged from $0 to $52, depending on the type of
                                              organization or agency involved and the speed of processing required.


Table III.4: California’s Fees for Conducting Fingerprint-Based Checks of Child Care Providers
                 $0                             $32                           $42                                        $52
    Nonprofit youth-serving             For-profit youth-serving              School bus drivers             Residential care for children
   organizations and human             organizations and human                                               and day care facilities with
      resource agencies                   resource agencies                                                    more than six children
          Foster care               Private and noncertified public    Santa Clara County Department
                                           school employees             of Social Services/unlicensed
                                                                         foster care (a pilot program)
    Adoptions (stepparent)               Adoptions (agency,
                                    independent, and intercountry)
Residential care for children and    Trustline Registry (registered
   day care facilities with six           child care workers)
       children or fewer
        Family day care             Parks and recreation employees
                                              Source: California Department of Justice.



                                              State fingerprint checks are free for all employees and volunteers at
                                              nonprofit youth service organizations and human resource agencies
                                              covered under California Penal Code section 11105.3. These organizations
                                              include Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, sports leagues, nanny services,
                                              YMCAs, YWCAs, and newspapers (youth carrier supervisors).

                                              Volunteers at other nonprofit entities, including those licensed by the
                                              California Department of Social Services, can also get free state fingerprint
                                              checks under section 11105.3. However, information disseminated from
                                              these checks is restricted to arrests resulting in conviction (and arrests
                                              pending adjudication) for sex crimes, drug crimes, or crimes of violence.
                                              This limited dissemination does not permit a volunteer to perform the
                                              duties of a paid employee. Before being allowed to perform such duties,
                                              the individual would be required to have a more comprehensive $52 state
                                              check through the Department of Social Services, during which all arrest
                                              and conviction information is obtained.

                                              Employees and volunteers at for-profit youth-serving organizations and
                                              human resource agencies pay a $32 fee, which is California’s standard
                                              fingerprint processing fee. This fee is based on the California Department
                                              of Justice’s reported costs for processing applicant fingerprints.




                                              Page 36                                     GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
          Appendix III
          Fingerprint-Based Background Check Fees
          and Actual Costs




          Department officials told us the processing costs per applicant averaged
          $32.62, which consisted of $13.84 in direct processing costs, $11.30 for file
          improvements, and $7.48 for workload enhancements. According to
          California Department of Justice officials, the maintenance costs for
          applicant processing are high because the Department retains most
          applicant fingerprint cards and, thus, is able to later notify applicable
          organizations and entities of any subsequent arrests of the individuals.

          The $42 fee consists of the standard $32 fee plus an extra $10 for
          expedited service (guaranteed turnaround in 17 working days). According
          to California Department of Justice officials, the extra $10 supports
          additional staff dedicated solely to processing requests for expedited
          service.

          The $52 fee applies to employees and volunteers not exempt from fees at
          facilities licensed by the California Department of Social Services’
          Community Care Licensing Division. This fee consists of the standard $32
          fee, plus $10 for expedited service and an additional $10 to help subsidize
          state checks done for the Division’s fee-exempt providers (foster care,
          family day care, and residential child care and day care facilities with six
          or fewer children). According to statistics provided by the California
          Department of Justice, about one-half of the approximately 118,000 state
          checks done for the Department of Social Services during July 1995
          through June 1996 were fee-exempt.


Florida   Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials told us that the state
          does not perform fingerprint-based checks of criminal history records for
          purposes of employment and licensing. These officials explained that the
          state’s computer system for fingerprint searches was not sufficient to
          handle such applicants, either for paid employees or for volunteers. Thus,
          our questions regarding the fees for and the actual costs of fingerprint
          checks were not applicable to Florida. However, for these noncriminal
          justice purposes, the state was performing name-based background
          checks and charging a fee of $15 for most applicants. The only exception
          is the $8 fee charged for applicant background checks required by the
          Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.

          For calendar year 1995, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
          performed a total of 1,134,013 name-based searches for employment and




          Page 37                           GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
            Appendix III
            Fingerprint-Based Background Check Fees
            and Actual Costs




            licensing and in response to public requests.2 Further, 535,941 (or
            47 percent) of the total requests for criminal history searches were
            accompanied by fingerprint cards, which the Department forwarded to the
            FBI for national checks.3 The state’s records were insufficiently detailed for
            us to determine how many of these national checks involved child care
            positions. However, many of the requests for national checks were
            submitted by various state agencies, such as the Florida Department of
            Banking and Finance and the Florida Department of Insurance, that
            obviously have no child care responsibilities. One exception is the Florida
            Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, which is responsible for
            licensing and certifying facilities for the care of children. During 1995, this
            department requested over 100,000 national background checks.


Tennessee   By state statute, Tennessee’s fee structure mirrors that of the FBI, which
            currently is $18 for volunteers and $24 for all others. Tennessee Bureau of
            Investigation officials told us that given this statutory basis for setting fees,
            the state has not attempted to calculate its actual costs.


Texas       Texas’ fee is $15 for fingerprint checks of applicants, whether volunteers
            or nonvolunteers. This fee amount, according to Texas Department of
            Public Safety officials, was established in 1990 on the basis of a study that
            calculated actual costs totaling $11.42 per applicant. According to the
            study, this total consisted of employee costs ($5.81); supervisory costs
            ($1.46); utility, materials, and supply costs ($3.65); and data entry costs
            ($0.50). Even though these costs for fingerprint searches totaled $11.42 per
            applicant, the study recommended a fee of $15. This amount, according to
            the study, would ensure that Texas fees were consistent with other states’
            fees for similar services. Texas officials told us that the fee was later
            changed to $17.25, as part of a general, across-the-board increase of
            15 percent of all the state’s applicable fees. The officials explained,
            however, that the state legislature “rolled back” the fee to $15 in 1996.

            In calendar year 1995, the Texas Department of Public Safety conducted
            115,398 fingerprint-based searches of applicants.4 Of this total, the

            2
             Because Florida is an open records state, anyone residing in the state can request (for any reason) a
            name-based search on any other person residing in Florida. According to Florida Department of Law
            Enforcement statistics, public requests accounted for 593,308 (or 52 percent) of the total name-based
            searches conducted in 1995.
            3
             None of the public requests were forwarded to the FBI. Those requests were for name-based searches
            only, which were conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
            4
             Major categories included persons applying for concealed handgun permits (38,863 applicants) and
            private investigator licenses (34,390 applicants).


            Page 38                                   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
           Appendix III
           Fingerprint-Based Background Check Fees
           and Actual Costs




           Department forwarded 15,287 requests to the FBI for national searches. Of
           these national searches, 1,195 involved applicants for positions involving
           interaction with children.5


Virginia   Virginia’s fee is $13 for fingerprint checks of applicants, whether
           volunteers or nonvolunteers. Virginia Department of State Police officials
           told us that this fee amount has been in effect for several years and, at the
           time of implementation, was set to match the FBI’s then-current fee.6 The
           officials said that the state has not calculated or analyzed the actual costs
           of conducting fingerprint checks. On the other hand, the officials noted
           that in 1993, the Department did analyze the costs for conducting
           name-based checks. At that time, according to these officials, the
           Department’s actual costs for a name-based check averaged $14.48 per
           applicant.




           5
            The 1,195 national fingerprint searches were performed for the Texas Department of Protective and
           Regulatory Services, which licenses foster homes and child care facilities. Also, the Department serves
           as the conduit for certain nonprofit entities to request national fingerprint searches.
           6
            Effective October 1, 1989, the FBI’s fee for billing states was $13 (see tab. III.1).



           Page 39                                      GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Appendix IV

Specific Uses and Results of
Fingerprint-Based Background Checks in
Selected States
                         The specific uses and results of fingerprint-based background checks were
                         difficult to quantify in many cases because there were no reporting
                         requirements and statistics were not routinely kept. Starting with the FBI,
                         we tried to obtain the number of fingerprint-based criminal history checks
                         relating to NCPA. The FBI performed 1,834,369 fingerprint-based criminal
                         history checks in fiscal year 1995 for civil nonfederal applicants. However,
                         the FBI was unable to disaggregate that figure to identify how many checks
                         relating to NCPA were performed for child care purposes or volunteer
                         organizations.

                         For each of the five study states, we had similar difficulties obtaining
                         comprehensive statistics on the use and results of national
                         fingerprint-based checks for NCPA purposes. However, by focusing on
                         selected job positions, organizations, or local jurisdictions within each
                         state, we were able to identify situations clearly showing the usefulness of
                         national fingerprint-based checks.


California: Results of   According to California officials, state and FBI fingerprint-based
Background Checks of     background checks are requested on all individuals applying for
Teachers and Other       credentials to work in California public schools, including new teachers,
                         counselors, and administrators. The officials indicated that state checks
Credentialed School      have been conducted since 1951, and FBI checks since at least the 1970s.
Employees                The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is responsible for
                         requesting the checks, reviewing the results, and determining whether
                         applicants are or are not qualified. A California statute contains a list of
                         offenses (e.g., drug-related and sexual assault offenses) that result in
                         mandatory denials or revocation of credentials.1 In addition, a California
                         statute provides the Commission with discretionary authority to deny
                         credentials to any applicant who is guilty of the offenses listed therein.2

                         The Commission performs this function centrally for all of the state’s 7,818
                         public schools (as of October 1994). These schools had a total of 213,389
                         full-time credentialed employees for the period July 1994 through
                         June 1995. Applicants pay $32 for the California Department of Justice
                         state check and $24 for the national FBI check. These fees are part of the
                         total fee to obtain California credentials, and applicants are not
                         reimbursed. According to Commission officials, obtaining background
                         check results from the FBI takes approximately 4 months.


                         1
                          Cal. Educ. Code 44425 and 44346.
                         2
                          Cal. Educ. Code 44345.



                         Page 40                             GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
    Appendix IV
    Specific Uses and Results of
    Fingerprint-Based Background Checks in
    Selected States




    For the period July 1995 through June 1996, the California Commission on
    Teacher Credentialing requested 27,564 state and FBI background checks.
    Of these total checks, 540 criminal history reports (“rap sheets”) were
    received from the California Department of Justice, and 66 rap sheets were
    received from the FBI via the California Department of Justice.

    From July 1995 through June 1996, a total of 45 initial applicants were
    denied credentials for various reasons. Commission officials estimate that
    the fingerprint-based background checks were used as the basis for denial
    in about 95 percent of all denials. The officials added that in one or two
    cases each year, the background checks result in an automatic denial of a
    certification.

    The Commission did not have detailed statistics on the number of hits that
    resulted from FBI checks after the search of California’s records found no
    criminal histories. Commission officials told us that national checks are a
    key component in protecting the safety of schoolchildren and are worth
    doing even if they reveal only a few criminal histories not covered in
    California. The officials provided the following example of the usefulness
    of national checks:

•   In 1996, an individual with a lifetime teacher certification from Texas
    noted on his California application that he had never been convicted of a
    felony. However, the FBI check requested by the Commission showed that
    the applicant had been convicted of sexual battery (rape) in Florida. This
    offense occurred before he was credentialed in Texas, which does not do
    national background checks as part of the teacher certification process.
    The California Commission may not have learned about this crime if not
    for the FBI check. The individual was teaching a special education program
    in California for 6 months before the results of the FBI check were
    received.3 There was no indication that any children were abused. The
    employee was dismissed.

    In addition to applicant background checks, if a credential holder is
    subsequently arrested or convicted of a crime, the California Department
    of Justice sends a “subsequent arrest notice” to the Commission.4 For the
    period July 1995 through June 1996, these notices resulted in 53
    mandatory revocations, i.e., the individuals were convicted of a specified

    3
     California statutes permit the issuance of temporary credentials while the results of the FBI’s
    background checks are pending. Cal. Educ. Code 44332 and 44332.5.
    4
    The criminal charges reviewed by the Commission may be as minor as petty theft or as serious as
    murder and child molestation.



    Page 41                                    GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                             Appendix IV
                             Specific Uses and Results of
                             Fingerprint-Based Background Checks in
                             Selected States




                             criminal offense involving drugs or sex.5 Also, on another 39 individuals,
                             the Commission imposed “interim suspensions,” which are required by
                             California law when an individual is criminally charged with a specified
                             sex offense or when an individual pleads “no contest” to specified serious
                             criminal offenses.6


Florida: Results of          In calendar year 1995, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
National Background          forwarded to the FBI 270,435 requests for national fingerprint-based checks
Checks of Teachers and       of noncriminal justice applicants. The Department’s statistics did not show
                             which agencies or entities in the state requested these checks.
Other School Employees
                             We focused our work in Florida on teachers and other school employees.
                             Regarding applicants for certified instructional positions in Florida
                             schools, state law does not specify disqualifying crimes. However, one of
                             the requirements for qualification is good moral character. The Florida
                             Bureau of Teacher Certification officials told us that requesting
                             fingerprint-based background checks, reviewing the results, and
                             determining whether the applicants are or are not qualified are their
                             responsibilities. The officials added that the Bureau performs this function
                             centrally for all of the state’s 67 public school districts, which had a total
                             of 132,080 teachers in 1995.

                             Florida Bureau of Teacher Certification officials disqualified a total of 56
                             applicants for the 1995 school year (July 1, 1995, through June 30, 1996).
                             However, the officials noted that even though the Bureau may disqualify as
                             many as 100 applicants a year on the basis of criminal history records,
                             most of these decisions are reversed on appeal. More specifically, these
                             officials commented substantially as follows:

                         •   The Florida Bureau of Teacher Certification has requested a total of about
                             25,000 national fingerprint-based checks annually in recent years. Checks
                             conducted on applicants during school year 1995 resulted in identification
                             of 1,079 individuals with criminal history records.7 Of these total hits, the
                             Bureau determined that 56 individuals should not be certified to teach, and
                             the Bureau provided each of these individuals a written notification of
                             disqualification. After receiving such notification, 37 of the 56 individuals
                             appealed to a centralized review board, which reversed all but 5 of the

                             5
                              California law provides for no hearing or administrative appeal for an individual convicted of a
                             specified mandatory revocation offense. Cal. Educ. Code 44425.
                             6
                              Cal. Educ. Code 44425.
                             7
                              The Florida Bureau of Teacher Certification does not keep specific information on each hit, and
                             therefore could not separate these hits into state hits versus FBI hits.


                             Page 42                                   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
    Appendix IV
    Specific Uses and Results of
    Fingerprint-Based Background Checks in
    Selected States




    Bureau noncertification decisions. Thus, after the appeals process, the
    remaining number of adverse personnel actions based upon criminal
    histories was 24 (i.e., the 5 unsuccessful appellants, plus the 19 applicants
    who did not appeal their disqualification notifications). In making its
    decisions, the review board considered the date of the offense, the severity
    of the offense, and any rehabilitation measures the applicant had taken
    (e.g., drug abuse counseling and treatment). The review board does not
    view offenses such as petty theft or bad check writing to be serious
    offenses.

    Similar to the Florida provision relating to instructional positions, Florida
    law also does not specify disqualifying crimes regarding applicants for
    noninstructional positions in the state’s schools. But, one of the
    requirements for qualification is good moral character. Each school
    district is responsible for determining whether the applicants or hirees are
    or are not qualified.

    We obtained available information from one school district in
    Florida—Leon County School District. In calendar year 1995, the district
    had a total of 5,653 teachers and noninstructional personnel, of which
    1,260 were newly hired. The district requested national fingerprint-based
    background checks on the 1,260 new personnel. In response to our
    inquiries, the district’s personnel office could not readily disaggregate the
    total number of new hires into teacher and noninstructional staff
    categories. However, office staff did provide the following information:

•   Of the fingerprint-based background checks requested in 1995 for
    noninstructional personnel, about 40 percent resulted in identification of
    criminal records. Of these staff, about 100 had a criminal history serious
    enough for the district to send each individual a letter asking for
    explanations about the crimes. After the Affirmative Action Director
    received full explanations and documentation from the employees, about
    10 people were fired because of their criminal history records. Of those
    fired, about four or five appealed those decisions, and, as a result, two or
    three were reinstated. In summary, seven or eight noninstructional
    personnel remained fired based on the criminal history records checks.8
    The records showed that each individual had been convicted for a serious
    offense, such as drug possession or trafficking and aggravated battery,
    within the previous 7 years.

    8
     Because the criminal history record information from both the state criminal history check and the
    FBI criminal history check was returned to the school district combined, the district’s personnel office
    staff could not estimate how many criminal history records came from the state check and how many
    came from the FBI check.



    Page 43                                   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                         Appendix IV
                         Specific Uses and Results of
                         Fingerprint-Based Background Checks in
                         Selected States




Tennessee: Results of    Under a Tennessee law, which took effect in January 1994 (see app. II),
Background Checks of     child welfare agencies can require state and national fingerprint-based
Foster Care Applicants   background checks on all persons applying to work with children. In
                         October 1995, the Tennessee Department of Human Services started
                         requiring such checks on prospective foster care parents and social
                         services employees who will be working with children.9 The Department
                         did not plan to check foster care parents who were already in the system
                         as of October 1995. The Department pays the $24 state fee and the $24 FBI
                         fee. State check results are received in less than a month, and FBI results
                         are received in 6 weeks to 2 months.

                         From October 1995 through May 1996, the Tennessee Department of
                         Human Services requested 1,293 state and FBI fingerprint checks for foster
                         care applicants and social services employees. Of the 1,293 checks, 120 (or
                         9.3 percent) showed felony criminal records. Felony records included
                         enticing a child to enter a house for immoral purposes, accessory to
                         murder, aggravated assault with weapons on a family, smuggling drugs,
                         delivery of drugs, receiving and concealing stolen property, and grand
                         larceny. The national check identified 58 of the 120 felony records, which
                         were not found via the state check.

                         In one case, the FBI check revealed that a new foster care parent for four
                         children had served a 3-year prison sentence in Alabama for enticing a
                         child to enter a house for immoral purposes. As a result of the background
                         check, the Tennessee Department of Human Services immediately
                         removed the four children from the convicted felon’s home.10 Department
                         officials told us there was no evidence that any of the children had been
                         abused.

                         In another case, a foster care applicant told Department officials he was in
                         the FBI’s witness protection program but did not disclose why. The FBI
                         check revealed that the applicant had been arrested in another state for
                         accessory to murder. Therefore, the foster child already placed in his
                         home was removed.




                         9
                          Some foster care placements are contracted out to private organizations. These organizations are not
                         required to request fingerprint checks.
                         10
                           Because of the time lag between requesting FBI checks and receiving results, children were placed in
                         foster care homes before the FBI’s results were received. Since January 1995, children are not placed
                         until the results from all fingerprint checks are received.



                         Page 44                                  GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                               Appendix IV
                               Specific Uses and Results of
                               Fingerprint-Based Background Checks in
                               Selected States




Texas: Results of              Under Texas law (see app. II), Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America is one
Background Checks of           of four nonprofit organizations specifically authorized to request national
Applicants at One Local        fingerprint-based background checks through the Texas Department of
                               Protective and Regulatory Services.11 We selected Big Brothers/Big Sisters
Affiliate of Big               because it is the only nonprofit organization of the four authorized that
Brothers/Big Sisters of        requested national fingerprint-based criminal history checks. Of the 21 Big
America                        Brothers/Big Sisters affiliates in Texas, only 1 affiliate requested national
                               fingerprint-based checks. In response to our inquiries, affiliate
                               representatives commented substantially as follows:

                           •   The affiliate requested a total of 98 national fingerprint-based checks
                               during the period August 1, 1995, through July 17, 1996. Of this total, two
                               applicants were found to have criminal records. The affiliate still accepted
                               one of these individuals as a volunteer because the criminal history record
                               involved an incident (theft under $20) that occurred about 22 years ago,
                               and the other indicators in the screening process (e.g., interviews and
                               references) showed no concerns. The other applicant was rejected as a
                               volunteer because the criminal history record showed a drug possession
                               conviction about 6 years ago; also, during the interview and screening
                               process, the applicant exhibited behavior that raised some concerns.


Virginia: Results of           Under Virginia law (see app. II), 42 of the state’s 135 school boards are
Background Checks of           required to request state and national fingerprint-based background
Applicants at Two Public       checks of applicants as a condition of employment. Under the law, the
                               school boards must take into account charges or convictions of specified
School Districts               crimes. In calendar year 1995, approximately 10,000 state and national
                               checks were conducted. The background checks are not part of a
                               centralized credentialing process. Rather, each school board is responsible
                               for requesting the checks, reviewing the results, and determining whether
                               applicants are or are not qualified. The results are not shared with other
                               counties. Therefore, a teacher moving from one county to another would
                               require new checks, and a substitute teacher working in multiple counties
                               would require multiple checks.

                               We contacted personnel offices in 2 of the 42 school districts—
                               Chesterfield and Henrico counties—to obtain views on the usefulness of


                               11
                                 During calendar year 1995, the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, which is
                               responsible for foster care and child care facilities, submitted to the FBI a total of 1,195 requests for
                               national fingerprint-based checks. In response to our inquiry, the Department was unable to
                               disaggregate this total among the specific organizations that requested the checks. Also, we contacted
                               the Big Brothers/Big Sisters office in Austin, Texas; however, the office did not have Texas-wide
                               statistics regarding background checks of individuals applying to be volunteers.



                               Page 45                                    GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                 Appendix IV
                                 Specific Uses and Results of
                                 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks in
                                 Selected States




                                 state and FBI background checks. According to responsible officials, since
                                 the background checks have begun, over 100 individuals in these 2 school
                                 districts have been fired on the basis of their criminal history records. The
                                 officials commented that the background checks have revealed only two
                                 individuals with criminal records involving child abuse. In one case, for
                                 example, the criminal history record showed that the individual set fire to
                                 a house with children inside. Officials from both counties told us the
                                 checks are definitely a deterrent. One of the officials added that the
                                 checks would still be worth the cost even if they revealed no criminal
                                 records. Another official told us the checks are worth the cost if only one
                                 child is saved from abuse.

Chesterfield County Public       In response to our inquiries, school personnel officials in Chesterfield
Schools                          County commented substantially as follows:

                             •   With 55 schools, approximately 50,000 students, and about 5,800
                                 employees (not including substitute teachers and volunteers), Chesterfield
                                 County is one of the largest public school districts in Virginia. The county
                                 has been conducting state and FBI fingerprint checks since July 1990.
                                 These checks cover all new full-time and part-time hires (teachers,
                                 janitors, food service workers, etc.) and rehires who have not been
                                 employed by the school district for more than 2 years. Substitute teachers
                                 and volunteers are not checked at this school district. Employees who
                                 were on board in July 1990 were not checked, and employees are not
                                 periodically rechecked. Chesterfield County pays the $13 state fee and the
                                 $24 FBI fee. State check results are received in about 2 weeks, and FBI
                                 results are received in about 2 months.
                             •   From July 1, 1995, through June 5, 1996, Chesterfield County requested
                                 about 675 to 700 state and FBI checks, of which 32 (or about 4.6 percent)
                                 found criminal records. Although not specifically quantifiable, the majority
                                 of these criminal records involved Virginia offenses. The number of hits
                                 resulting from FBI checks (i.e., hits after the state’s checks found no
                                 criminal histories) has been relatively small. Since July 1990, the total in
                                 this category has been five or six hits. Of these, two or three cases resulted
                                 in the employee’s being dismissed. In one case, for example, a custodial
                                 worker in a Chesterfield County public school was found to have an
                                 outstanding fugitive warrant in Maryland for a traffic violation. After this
                                 was learned, the police were notified and the employee was dismissed.
                             •   Also, in about six cases each year, employees are dismissed because the
                                 state or FBI check revealed that the employee falsified the application.
                                 Most of these employees worked in the custodial area, which raised a




                                 Page 46                            GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                    Appendix IV
                                    Specific Uses and Results of
                                    Fingerprint-Based Background Checks in
                                    Selected States




                                    concern about theft, since these employees had unsupervised access to
                                    equipment and supplies.

Henrico County Public Schools       In response to our inquiries, school personnel officials in Henrico County
                                    commented substantially as follows:

                                •   With 58 schools, over 38,000 students, and about 4,200 full-time
                                    employees, Henrico County is one of the 10 largest public school districts
                                    in Virginia. The county has been requesting state and FBI fingerprint
                                    background checks since July 1993. These checks cover all new full-time,
                                    part-time, and temporary employees (teachers, substitute teachers,
                                    janitors, food service workers, etc.) and rehires who have not been
                                    employed by the school district for more than 2 years. Employees who
                                    were on board in July 1993 were not checked, and employees are not
                                    periodically rechecked. County officials want to do state and national
                                    checks on all volunteers, but the school board historically has not wanted
                                    the checks.
                                •   Henrico County pays the $13 state fee and the $24 FBI fee. State check
                                    results are received in about 2 to 3 weeks, and FBI results are received in
                                    about 4 weeks to 2 months.
                                •   From July 1993 through June 1996, Henrico county requested
                                    approximately 3,800 state and FBI checks (about 1,200 a year) on new
                                    hires. Of this total, 137 (or 3.6 percent) resulted in identification of
                                    applicants with criminal records. The majority of these hits involved
                                    Virginia criminal records. As a result of these hits, 111 of the 137 new hires
                                    were fired. The other 26 new employees were not fired because the
                                    individuals (1) showed that information in the criminal history records
                                    was inaccurate or (2) had acknowledged their criminal history in
                                    completing the application form. The 111 firings were justified on the basis
                                    that the individuals had lied on their applications (claiming no criminal
                                    conviction) and not because of the nature of their criminal records. Ten or
                                    fewer of these 111 employees had criminal records identified by the FBI,
                                    following a state check showing no records.




                                    Page 47                            GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Appendix V

IAFIS: System Components, Incremental
Development Approach, States’
Participation, and Automated Criminal
History Records
                          The FBI describes IAFIS as being a large, technologically complex system
                          that will support the exchange of criminal history information among
                          federal, state, and local agencies using a variety of media, standard
                          formats, and communication protocols. Presently, fingerprint checks are
                          initiated through the submission of criminal or civil 10-print fingerprint
                          cards. During fiscal year 1995, the FBI received and processed over
                          9 million fingerprint cards submitted by federal, state, and local criminal
                          justice organizations for criminal and applicant purposes.


                          For many users, the development of IAFIS should eliminate the need to
Major Components of       transport and process paper fingerprint cards. Fingerprints are to be
IAFIS                     captured electronically1 at booking stations or other locations and
                          transmitted through a high-speed telecommunications network to an
                          applicable state agency and the FBI for processing. Also, the FBI’s present
                          inventory of criminal fingerprint cards is to be electronically scanned,
                          converted into digital images, and stored in an IAFIS database to facilitate
                          on-line retrieval.

                          To meet the goal of providing computerized criminal history and
                          identification services, IAFIS is designed to have three major subsystems or
                          components:2

                      •   The Interstate Identification Index is an existing federal-state cooperative
                          system for exchanging criminal history records. The Index contains
                          federal criminal history files and also provides access to state-level
                          centralized repositories of criminal history records. With the development
                          of IAFIS, some or all of the Index’s hardware and software is to be replaced.
                      •   A new Identification Tasking and Networking subsystem is to provide the
                          workstations, workflow control, internal telecommunications, and image
                          files necessary to support “paperless” processing.
                      •   A new Automated Fingerprint Identification System is to provide
                          fingerprint searching capabilities. The System is to first digitize the
                          fingerprint image (if not already digitized, as it is when received from a
                          scanning device). Then, in processing the digitized image, searchable
                          fingerprint characteristics are to be extracted (e.g., ridge-ending locations
                          and orientations). In a background check, the appropriate subfile of

                          1
                           For example, certain scanning equipment can capture fingerprint images directly (without the
                          application of ink to the fingers) and also allow the user to combine the images with narrative data to
                          produce a standard electronic fingerprint card.
                          2
                           Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) Planning Guide (April 30, 1993),
                          produced by the Advisory Policy Board to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, with
                          assistance from SEARCH (The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics).



                          Page 48                                   GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
              Appendix V
              IAFIS: System Components, Incremental
              Development Approach, States’
              Participation, and Automated Criminal
              History Records




              fingerprints is to be searched for the applicable characteristics. A resulting
              candidate list of file fingerprints (the most probable matches) is to be
              generated and provided to a fingerprint examiner, who decides which (if
              any) of the candidates represents a positive identification.

              By “integrating” these three components—an upgraded Interstate
              Identification Index capability, a new Identification Tasking and
              Networking subsystem, and a new Automated Fingerprint Identification
              System—IAFIS is to provide a more efficient interface for state and local
              users.3


              In 1996, in response to concerns about cost increases and schedule
Incremental   slippages, the FBI adopted a new approach for developing and deploying
Development   IAFIS. This approach, as shown in table V.1, involves six separate segments,

Approach      or “builds.” The build dates will not be finalized until the completion of the
              negotiations with the various development contractors.




              3
               In addition to the three major components, the IAFIS project also includes the interrelated
              development of (1) the “Fingerprint Image Conversion Operation,” which involves the scanning and
              digitizing of nearly 32 million 10-print fingerprint cards already in the FBI’s master fingerprint file;
              (2) the “Fingerprint Image Capture System,” which is to provide the completed IAFIS with the
              scanning capability to accommodate users who have no electronic transmission equipment and, thus,
              continue to submit fingerprints on paper cards; and (3) a “Management Information and Decision
              Support” program to facilitate IAFIS performance analyses and other administration and monitoring
              functions, including accounting for service-based fees.



              Page 49                                    GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                            Appendix V
                                            IAFIS: System Components, Incremental
                                            Development Approach, States’
                                            Participation, and Automated Criminal
                                            History Records




Table V.1: Timelines, Users, and Description of Each IAFIS Build
Build                            Scheduled on-line by:           Users                           Description
A                               August 1996                      FBI                             Developed and deployed an
                                                                                                 automated capability to
                                                                                                 conduct searches from
                                                                                                 fingerprints found at a crime
                                                                                                 scene against a 200,000 record
                                                                                                 database.
B                               December 1996                    FBI                             Increase the searchable
                                                                                                 database in build A to 500,000
                                                                                                 files.
C                               November 1997                    FBI                             Provide a limited fingerprint
                                                                                                 search capability (about 10
                                                                                                 percent of eventual capacity)
                                                                                                 and a stand-alone fingerprint
                                                                                                 image repository.
D                               February 1998                    FBI                             Integrate a high-volume
                                                                                                 fingerprint scanning capability
                                                                                                 and the capability to compare
                                                                                                 images on a computer screen.
                                                                                                 This build is intended to
                                                                                                 decrease fingerprint card
                                                                                                 processing time and decrease
                                                                                                 retrieval time for candidate
                                                                                                 matches.
E                               October 1998                     FBI; a few states               Allow some selected remote
                                                                                                 users to search IAFIS database
                                                                                                 and retrieve images.
F                               July 1999                        FBI; all other states           Complete the development.
                                                                                                 Also add several new services,
                                                                                                 including the storage and
                                                                                                 retrieval of mug shots.
                                            Source: FBI.



                                            Although the FBI does not have a schedule specifically showing when the
                                            states, or which states, will use IAFIS for applicant criminal history check
                                            purposes, table V.1 does show that state participation in the system is not
                                            to begin until “build E,” which is scheduled to be on-line in October 1998.
                                            At that time, according to the FBI, a “small number” of other federal and
                                            state users are to be selected to implement IAFIS capabilities on a trial
                                            basis. FBI officials told us that build E would provide an opportunity for
                                            checking the system in an operational environment before the remaining
                                            users are accepted in build F.




                                            Page 50                            GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                         Appendix V
                         IAFIS: System Components, Incremental
                         Development Approach, States’
                         Participation, and Automated Criminal
                         History Records




                         For nearly a century, the criminal justice community has used fingerprint
General Observations     identification. Over the last 2 decades, manual fingerprint processing has
Regarding States’        given way to increased use of automation. Today, many states and cities
Participation in IAFIS   have some form of automated fingerprint identification system. Thus, in
                         designing IAFIS, the FBI was very cognizant that the “connectivity” of the
                         integrated system with the state and local law enforcement community
                         would be a challenge.

                         To prepare for this challenge, the FBI worked with the National Institute of
                         Standards and Technology to hold a series of workshops nationwide
                         during 1990 and 1991. These forums were attended by officials from
                         federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and by representatives
                         from all of the major vendors for automated and live-scan fingerprint
                         equipment. The resulting national standards for the transmissions of
                         fingerprint data have been approved by the American National Standards
                         Institute.4

                         Among other purposes, these standards were to provide a basis for state
                         and local law enforcement officials to begin planning to ensure that their
                         agencies had the capability to participate in the new federal system.
                         However, it is important to note that no agency is required to participate in
                         IAFIS. Each state can decide the extent to which it wants to be “connected”
                         to and compatible with IAFIS. That is, each state must decide for itself what
                         equipment and system changes or upgrades are needed (if any), desirable,
                         and affordable.

                         Recognizing that the various states are at different stages of automation
                         with respect to fingerprint identification services, the FBI is planning to
                         accommodate different levels of participation in IAFIS—ranging from
                         minimal to full participation. At the minimal end, for example, some states
                         may decide to continue using the U.S. Postal Service to transmit paper
                         fingerprint cards. For this reason, as noted earlier, IAFIS will have a
                         “Fingerprint Image Capture System” that will allow the FBI to scan and
                         digitize data from these cards. The fuller levels of participation will be
                         dependent upon the states’ already having or later acquiring
                         (1) standards-compatible equipment and/or (2) special purpose computer
                         programs (“controllers”) to provide format conversions.




                         4
                          Data Format for the Interchange of Fingerprint Information (ANSI/NIST-CSL 1-1993).



                         Page 51                                 GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
                                           Appendix V
                                           IAFIS: System Components, Incremental
                                           Development Approach, States’
                                           Participation, and Automated Criminal
                                           History Records




                                           Because effective background checks depend upon the availability of
Selected States’                           reliable records, we obtained information about the status of the five
Criminal History                           states’ efforts to automate their criminal history records. As of the time of
Record Systems                             our review, the most recent biennial survey (conducted by SEARCH
                                           Group, Inc.) provided a report of each state’s status as of the end of
                                           calendar year 1995. At that time, as table V.2 shows for the five states
                                           covered in our review, all five had fully automated the master name index,
                                           and three of the five had fully automated the arrest records. Also, as
                                           further shown in table V.2, even though Virginia had the lowest percentage
                                           of automated arrest records among the five selected states, Virginia also
                                           had the highest percentage of automated records for arrests within the
                                           past 5 years that had final dispositions (e.g., dismissals, acquittals, or
                                           convictions) recorded.


Table V.2: Overview of Selected States’ Criminal History Records Systems (as of December 31, 1995)
                                                                                                                Percent of arrests
                                       Master name index                                                             within past 5
                                                        Percent    Number of subjects (individual offenders) in years in database
                                                              of           state criminal history file             that have final
                                     Fully              records                                         Percent      dispositions
State                                automated          in index          Total     Automated        automated           recorded
California                           Yes                     100        4,630,800         4,085,500                  88                    43
Florida                              Yes                     100        3,158,200         3,158,200                100                     73
Tennessee                            Yes                     100          655,400           655,400                100                     40
Texas                                Yes                     100        4,912,100         4,912,100                100                     40
Virginia                             Yes                     100        1,015,400           819,600                  81                    86
                                           Note: This information is based upon survey information reported by the administrators of the
                                           state criminal history record repositories. The survey was performed by SEARCH Group, Inc.,
                                           under a grant from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

                                           Source: Preliminary findings provided to GAO by the Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice
                                           Statistics. In 1997, the Bureau is scheduled to publish these findings.




                                           Page 52                                  GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
Appendix VI

Major Contributors to This Report


                        David P. Alexander, Senior Social Science Analyst
General Government      James M. Fields, Senior Social Science Analyst
Division, Washington,   Michael H. Little, Communications Analyst
D.C.                    Pamela V. Williams, Communications Analyst

                        Ronald B. Bageant, Assistant Director
Accounting and          Brian C. Spencer, Technical Assistant Director
Information
Management Division,
Washington, D.C.
                        Jan B. Montgomery, Assistant General Counsel
Office of the General   Ann H. Finley, Senior Attorney
Counsel, Washington,
D.C.
                        Danny R. Burton, Assistant Director, Administration of Justice
Dallas Field Office       Issues
                        Jeanne M. Barger, Evaluator-in-Charge
                        R. Eric Erdman, Evaluator
                        Donna B. Svoboda, Evaluator




(182024)                Page 53                       GAO/GGD-97-32 Fingerprint-Based Background Checks
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