Gary George Vadnais was convicted in 1986 of sexually molesting Laura R., then a 7-year-old girl in Minnesota. Vadnais, now 72 and living in St. Paul, has taught chess and been in contact with children in a variety of settings the past two decades. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, which has explored the case in a 4-part series, says that a background check would not have necessarily uncovered first-time felons. Checks are also limited by information entered into databases. “Like all computer databases, accuracy depends on who is doing the entering, and how sophisticated the checks and balances are to ensure accuracy,” says Brook Schaub, a retired St. Paul police sex crimes investigator and computer forensics expert.
A growing movement of ex-offenders and their supporters insist that restrictive laws and societal attitudes are making it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for people with criminal records to successfully return to society. More than 1,000 ex-offenders, their families and representatives from justice reform and civil rights groups are expected to demonstrate at the Minnesota Capitol today as part of a “Second Chance Day” rally. “The information age makes criminal background checks available for anyone who pays the fee,” states a flier announcing the unprecedented gathering. “The result is that information that was previously unavailable is now being used to discriminate in the areas of housing and employment.”