PHOENIX – Fingerprint records and criminal histories are missing for some inmates in Arizona, meaning when they're released they could pass background checks and get clearance to drive school buses or buy weapons.
Arizona Department of Corrections records show hundreds of inmates were booked without a fingerprint record between 2007 and 2014, the Arizona Capitol Times reported (http://bit.ly/1OZ4kdE ).
A project started in 2007 filled the information gap in most of those cases. About one-third of the inmates will still be released without a criminal history on record, allowing first-time offenders to clear background checks.
In 2015, at least 43 inmates have incomplete criminal histories.
The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission issued a 2014 report on the information gaps and made recommendations. The commission's legislative liaison, Andrew LeFevre, says "doing a record check is only as accurate as the records that are in the system."
Marc Peoples manages the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission's system improvement program. He said some people may be cited and released for charges such as driving under the influence and simply show up to court. If they are convicted, they could be sentenced to jail and serve time without ever having fingerprints on file that create a record of criminal history.
Officials say certain technological improvements could help the process. Millions of dollars in funding from various groups since 2011 have gone toward improving records and access.
LeFevre says a pilot program in Maricopa and Pinal County Superior Courts used mobile fingerprinting devices. Any inmates who did not have a fingerprint record could be prevented from going further in the criminal process without the information.
"It just speeds things up and makes things more accurate," LeFevre said.
Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com