Tealeaves from the 2023 SEARCH Winter Meeting
Posted on February 14, 2023 by Jeff Wigen
Recently, MCP subject-matter experts, including me, attended a conference presented by SEARCH, the National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. For more than a half century, SEARCH has promoted and supported information sharing between justice and public-safety entities at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels. Here are just some of our takeaways from the 2023 SEARCH Winter Meeting that was held in Seattle.
Sharing Criminal History Information Matters
Criminal history information is used in the daily protection of the public and law enforcement. It is used to help determine eligibility for civil rights and privileges, and in determining jail/prison sentence terms. If they are in error or unavailable, these records can:
- Affect law-enforcement officer safety during routine encounters
- Allow criminals access to vulnerable populations
- Allow prohibited persons access to firearms permits
- Delay lawful purchases of firearms
- Allow repeat criminals to have lesser sentences and incorrectly calculated jail times
Criminal history repositories orchestrate the collection, storage, and dissemination of this critical information. In all reality, lives are at risk without access to it.
Consequently, information sharing across the entire public-safety/justice ecosystem is vitally important. While it wasn’t discussed at the SEARCH event this year, an incident that occurred a decade and a half ago brings this need into sharp focus and still reverberates today: a mother and her two daughters were sexually assaulted and murdered during a home invasion.
The two perpetrators had long criminal records, including those involving violent crimes. If effective, ecosystem-wide information sharing had existed then, it is virtually certain that the parole board would have denied their requests for early release. But this information never was received by the parole board, which released one of the perpetrators in 2006, and the other in 2007 — just three months before the home invasion.
Cloud Computing and CJIS Policies
Another conference topic concerns how the policies of the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), a unit of the FBI, might need to be revised to accommodate entities that have moved infrastructure and databases to the cloud. Such migrations have become more prevalent in the public-safety/justice ecosystem over the last few years and are expected to accelerate because the cloud offers considerable advantages regarding resiliency, redundancy, flexibility, and in some cases, cost. If you’d like insights regarding the nuances of the cloud environment and its impact on information sharing in the public-safety/justice ecosystem, and particularly how the CJIS Security Policy evolution might affect your organization, please reach out.
Federal Spending on Criminal History Improvements
Also in the spotlight was the massive amount of federal money that is available to enhance information sharing across the ecosystem. For example, $200 million over the next five years is available via a supplemental grant program managed by the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), which exists within the Bureau of Justice Statistics. This money is in addition to other funding sources, such as NCHIP’s annual primary grant program. NCHIP was launched in 1995 to assist states, territories, tribal entities, and local authorities in improving the quality, timeliness, and immediate accessibility of criminal history records and related information.
An interesting discussion occurred related to many justice and public safety entities avoiding grant opportunities because they don’t have the personnel needed to administer a grant award. An acute staffing shortage is affecting the ability of public-safety agencies and court systems to maintain day-to-day operations, much less embark on new programs and projects. This too is an area where MCP can assist, by helping your organization improve its recruitment, hiring, training, and retention strategies and practices, and by showing how operations can be streamlined to get more out of existing staffing resources.
MCP is well positioned to help your organization pursue such grants — by identifying opportunities, helping you understand the grant guidance, helping you write compelling applications, and providing grant oversight — so please reach out. Application deadlines for the current grant cycles are fast approaching! This is a great time to apply, because not only is a lot of money available, but many grant programs have dropped the match requirement that previously was a barrier for many organizations, especially smaller ones with limited financial resources.
MCP Can Help
Visit MCP’s website often for more tea leaves from major conferences. And please consider reaching out — we exist to help public-safety and justice organizations fulfill their missions and improve outcomes for the communities and citizens they serve. We’d love the opportunity to chat about how we can help yours.
Jeff Wigen is an MCP senior project manager. Email him at JeffWigen@MissionCriticalPartners.com.
Topics: Criminal Justice, courtroom, MCP Conference Recaps