More than 3 million times a year, state agencies and individual Texans ask the state criminal convictions database to run background checks on prospective licensees, employees, tenants, or even significant others. They’re not getting what they pay for, says the Dallas Morning News. The state criminal convictions database is so riddled with holes that law enforcement officials say public safety is at risk. The state has only 69 percent of complete criminal histories records for 2002. In 2001, the state had only 60 percent. Hundreds of thousands of records are missing. “That’s just shocking,” said Renee Judd, administrator of a Dallas home health agency who uses it to screen employees and assumed it was comprehensive.
“Anyone who depends on the state database for a full and accurate check is foolish,” said John Bradley, Williamson County district attorney. Bradley is prosecuting a murder case in which the state information shows no prior convictions for the defendant; he actually received probation twice before on drug charges in two different counties. The problem is acute in Dallas County, which has one of the worst records of reporting convictions among metropolitan areas. In 2002, less than half the convictions in Dallas County made it into the state database. The year before, it was one out of every five. Dallas officials blame an outdated computer system scheduled for replacement this month. “Our criminal justice computer system is over 30 years old,” said Allen Clemson, court administrator. The system has been “modified and Band-Aided for years.”