Michigan will remove information on about 215,000 ex-convicts — including rapper Eminem — from a popular online database because the state believes the system is being improperly used by employers and others to run criminal background checks, says the Detroit Free Press. About 120,000 searches are made on the database every day. People who are no longer in the department’s custody, on parole, or on probation will be removed from the Offender Tracking Information System (OTIS) March 21, said Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections. Information and photographs of nearly 144,000 current prisoners, parolees, and probationers will stay on the system.
Corrections Director Patricia Caruso said the incomplete records on inactive offenders — OTIS has no data on arrests, misdemeanor convictions, or post-release criminal activity — can give users a false sense of security. “We don’t keep the official criminal records,” she said. Critics said removing easy access to department records has the potential to compromise public safety. The system can be used by anyone, including someone checking out a potential date or a neighbor. “This is public information. It is soft on crime to allow maximum security prisoners to discharge and purposefully not tell the public about it,” said Matt Davis, a former corrections department employee who helped develop OTIS in the late 1990s. Davis was a Free Press reporter before going to work for the state. The American Civil Liberties Union, which has voiced concerns about possible abuse of online databases that contain old criminal records, said the decision is “in everybody’s best interest.”