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Wsipp Wa Criminal History Records Audit 2006

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Washington State
Institute for
Public Policy
110 Fifth Avenue Southeast, Suite 214 • PO Box 40999 • Olympia, WA 98504-0999 • (360) 586-2677 • www.wsipp.wa.gov

November 2006

WASHINGTON STATE CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORDS AUDIT FOR ADULT FELONIES:
INTRODUCING THE STUDY SERIES
In 2006, the Office of Financial Management
(OFM) contracted with the Washington State
Institute for Public Policy (Institute) to conduct
an audit of the Washington State criminal history
records systems for adult felonies.1 Databases
included in the audit are from the Administrative
Office of the Courts (AOC), the Department of
Corrections (DOC), the Sentencing Guidelines
Commission (SGC), and the Washington State
Patrol (WSP).

SUMMARY
In 2006, the Office of Financial Management
contracted with the Washington State Institute for
Public Policy to conduct an audit of the
Washington State criminal history records
systems for adult felonies. Databases to be
included in the audit are from the Administrative
Office of the Courts, the Department of
Corrections, the Sentencing Guidelines
Commission, and the Washington State Patrol.

This report is the first of a series and describes
the research design and databases to be
included in the study. The final report of the
series will be completed by April 2007.

This report describes the research design and the
databases included in the study.

Background

•

Determine completeness and accuracy
among the databases over time.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) began the
National Criminal History Improvement Program
(NCHIP) in 1995. The objective of NCHIP is to
“improve the quality, timeliness, and accessibility of
criminal history records.”2 Comprehensive criminal
history records allow criminal justice professionals
to identify people quickly and accurately, resulting
in improved decision-making at all levels of the
criminal justice system.

•

Develop an overview of the strengths and
weaknesses of these systems’ ability to
describe a cohesive view of criminal
history records.

OFM obtained funding from NCHIP for the current
study and contracted with the Institute for this audit.
The Institute has extensive experience utilizing
criminal records data. For example, we developed
a recidivism database using AOC and DOC data.
The database has been used for dozens of juvenile
and adult recidivism studies.

1

This project was approved by the Institute’s Board of
Director’s on May 12, 2005.
2
Information retrieved on May 24, 2006, from
http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/nchip.htm.

Criminal records will be matched between
these databases. Objectives of the study are
to:

Because this project is extensive, a series of
reports will be published. The final report will be
completed in April 2007.

Study Objectives

About the Databases

Criminal records will be matched between
Washington State’s four criminal history
databases. Objectives of the study are to:

The study will include adult felony criminal
records from 1992 through 2005. Following is a
description of the databases included in the audit
and each organization’s data entry process:

•

Compare Washington State’s criminal
history databases for adult felons to
determine completeness and accuracy
among the databases.

•

Analyze patterns of inclusion and exclusion
of these data to determine how connected
the databases are with one another.

•

Learn how comprehensive criminal history is
captured by each database.

•

Develop an overview of the strengths and
weaknesses of these systems’ ability to
describe a cohesive view of the state’s
criminal history.

Washington State Patrol WSP coordinates
statewide criminal history information submitted
by local criminal justice agencies.3 It maintains
the Washington State Identification System
(WASIS) database, which is a fingerprint-driven
system including arrest, conviction, disposition,
and sentence information. WSP also maintains
the Automated Fingerprint Identification System
(AFIS), which stores fingerprint images for all
arrests contained in WASIS. AFIS houses about
1.3 million unique fingerprint records. The two
data systems are interfaced; thus, data entered
into WASIS must be accompanied by a
fingerprint so that an offender’s criminal history
can be tracked.

Criminal Records Oversight Committee
An oversight committee was assembled for this
study to provide technical guidance on data and
business practices. In addition, the committee
will ensure analyses accurately reflect the status
of the criminal history databases and records.
The committee is composed of members from
the following organizations:
•

Administrative Office of the Courts

•

Department of Corrections

•

Washington State Patrol

•

Sentencing Guidelines Commission

•

Office of Financial Management

•

Department of Information Services

•

Washington Association of County Clerks

•

Washington Association of Sheriffs and
Police Chiefs

•

Washington Association of Prosecuting
Attorneys

Local criminal justice agencies are required by
law to fingerprint persons arrested for felonies
and gross misdemeanors.4 Fingerprints are
acquired either by a “live-scan” or ink and paper.
Live-scan devices electronically capture
fingerprint images. Some live-scan devices have
the capability of connecting to AFIS, where
fingerprints are sent electronically to the WSP.
Ink and paper fingerprints are mailed to the WSP
and converted to an electronic image.
Once the electronic fingerprint is obtained, a
positive identification must be made in AFIS to
determine if the arrestee has a State
Identification (SID) number. After the WSP
receives the electronic fingerprint, via the livescan device or a converted image, AFIS is
searched for fingerprint matches. Searching for a
fingerprint in AFIS can take minutes or hours. To
expedite the process, the search in AFIS is first
limited by looking for potential matches in the
WASIS database using the arrestee’s name and
date of birth. Then, WSP searches to determine
if any of the potential matches are a positive
identification. If a positive identification is made,
then the existing SID is used for the arrestee. If
not, then all the records in AFIS are searched. A
new SID is assigned if a positive identification is
still not made.

3
4

RCW. 43.43.500
RCW 43.43.735

2

Administrative Office of the Courts The
superior courts in Washington State are the courts
of general jurisdiction. Among other types of
cases, superior courts oversee felony criminal
cases.
The county prosecutor investigates the evidence
about the arrest. If there is sufficient evidence that
the defendant committed a felony offense, the
prosecutor files the case in superior court with the
county clerk’s office. Misdemeanor cases are filed
in district court.
The database for superior court criminal filings is
called the Superior Court Case Management
System (SCOMIS). SCOMIS is used by county
clerks and includes all superior court criminal and
juvenile offender case filings. The database was
implemented in phases starting in the 1970s.
Nearly all counties were entering data by 1992.
Before a case is filed, the clerk’s office must first
identify the defendant in SCOMIS. AOC policy
states that a record must have “sameness”
between at least three of the following
characteristics: name, date of birth, physical
description, address history, other identifiers such
as SID, DOC number, social security number,
driver’s license number, and Federal Bureau of
Investigation number. The clerk’s office then
records the information on the prosecutor’s
charging document (called the Information).
AOC began identifying offenders using a
centralized person database and an AOC Person
Number in 1992. Prior to 1992, all offenders were
assigned a different AOC Person Number for each
case that came to the superior court.
A felony judgment and sentence (FJS) is recorded
for every sentence.5 Washington State Court
Criminal Rules state that the FJS must be the
“uniform” FJS as prescribed by the AOC.6 Many of
the county prosecutors’ offices use tailored
versions of the uniform FJS.
The original FJS stays in the court file in the clerk’s
office. By statute, a copy of the FJS goes to the
sentencing judge, the prosecuting attorney’s office,
and the SGC.7 Copies also go to the defendant,
defense attorney, local jails and probation offices,

5

RCW 9.94A.480
http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.display
&group=sup&set=CrR&ruleid=supCrR7.2
7
RCW 9.94A.480
6

the Department of Licensing (DOL), and DOC.8
Up to eight copies of the FJS are made.
Sentencing Guidelines Commission The
SGC was created after the Sentencing Reform
Act of 1981 and is tasked with evaluating the
state’s sentencing policies.
Upon conviction, SGC receives the FJS from the
county clerk’s office electronically or by mail.
The information is hand-entered into the SGC’s
database. SGC assigns each FJS an internal
tracking number to ensure that FJS’s are not
erroneously entered into the database more
than once.
SGC does not use a unique person identification
number because SGC’s database is sentencebased, not person-based. However, the SGC
does enter the SID into their database. Not all
the FJS’s have an SID. Therefore, SGC gets a
quarterly extract of SIDs from the WSP. SGC
joins SID using a name and date of birth match.
Department of Corrections DOC has authority
to confine and supervise offenders with a
superior court conviction. DOC’s current
database began in 1984 and it called the
Offender Based Tracking System (OBTS). This
database stores offense information, among
other data, for offenders under the jurisdiction of
the DOC.
Offenders sentenced to prison arrive at the
reception unit of the Washington Corrections
Center. For offenders sentenced to community
supervision, intake occurs at the field office in
the county where the offender will be
supervised. Upon intake, DOC staff search
OBTS to determine if the offender has
previously been assigned a DOC number. This
search is done primarily using information on the
FJS: name, date of birth, gender, and SID.
However, the SID does not always exist on the
FJS. DOC creates a list of offenders with
missing SID numbers each month. Records
managers use this report to access WSP’s
criminal records database and they search for

8

The Department of Licensing (DOL) receives copies of
the FJS if certain convictions prevent a person from
obtaining a driver’s license or a firearm. See RCW
9.41.040 for more information on persons who may not
lawfully possess a firearm. Prior to January 2006, the
Firearms Division at DOL also received a copy of the FJS,
but AOC now produces a report that the courts send in lieu
of the FJS.

3

an SID number.9 OBTS is updated if they find an
SID. If an SID is not found, DOC schedules the
offender for fingerprinting and sends the fingerprint
card to the WSP.

Research Design
The four criminal records databases will be
analyzed from several perspectives.
Official Person Identifier Analysis Three of the
four agencies use their own official person
identifiers. AOC uses an AOC person number,
DOC uses a DOC person number, and WSP uses a
state identification number or SID. SGC does not
have its own person identifier but uses the SID.
The official person identifier analysis will measure
the completeness and validity of the identifiers. For
example, when linking AOC data to WSP data, we
will determine how many AOC person numbers
have an SID. Then, for those that have an SID, we
will see if the SID exists in WSP’s database. In
addition, we will examine if the SID in AOC’s
database is assigned to multiple AOC person
numbers.

SCOMIS Case Number Analysis SCOMIS case
numbers will be analyzed across each agency to
see how many cases have a SCOMIS case
number. Then we will determine if those case
numbers are found in AOC’s database. Of those
cases that can be matched, we will ascertain
whether the case is associated with the
appropriate official person identifier.
Process Control Number Analysis (PCN)
Every time an event occurs that requires a
fingerprinting, a PCN number is assigned by
WSP. A PCN enables criminal justice staff to link
a fingerprinting event to a disposition. The PCN
was developed and fully implemented by 2001.
We will investigate how many arrests in the WSP
database have a PCN. We will also look at
DOC’s and AOC’s databases to see if a PCN
exists.
Records Quality Index (RQI) Analysis The
Records Quality Index (RQI) was developed for
NCHIP by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The
RQI is a standardized measure used to gauge
performance of criminal history records.
Objectives of the RQI are to:

Unofficial Person Identifier Analysis We will also
conduct an unofficial person identifier analysis to
determine the reliability of identifying a person
using only demographic characteristics – name,
DOB, and gender – as opposed to the official
person identifier.

•

Assess the condition of records quality at
state and national levels.

•

Identify areas of deficiency so improvements
can be targeted.

•

Target specific state and local problems and
deficiencies.

9

The Institute will report the RQI as part of the
analysis.

This is done using Washington Access to Criminal
History (WATCH), an internet resource comprised of state
criminal records available at https://watch.wsp.wa.gov/.

Next Steps
The Institute’s next report will analyze the official
person identifiers. The report is expected to be
completed by December 31, 2006.

For further information, contact: Elizabeth K. Drake at (360) 586-2767 or ekdrake@wsipp.wa.gov.

Document No. 06-11-1905
Washington State
Institute
This
is donefor
using Washington Access to Criminal History
Public an
Policy
(WATCH),
internet resource comprised of state criminal
records available
at https://watch.wsp.wa.gov/.
The Washington
State Legislature
created the Washington State Institute for Public Policy in 1983. A Board of Directors—representing the legislature,
9

the governor, and public universities—governs the Institute and guides the development of all activities. The Institute’s mission is to carry out practical
4
research, at legislative direction, on issues of importance to Washington State.

 

 

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