An recent article in the New York Times on O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing highlights the ongoing challenge of the FBI database as insufficient to understand a person’s criminal past. The August 11 story is Nevada Parole Board Unaware of O.J. Simpson’s Old Conviction. In it, it we are told that “[d]uring [O.J. Simpson’s parole board] hearing on July 20,  members of the Nevada Board of Parole Commissioners said that before his 2008 conviction for the robbery in a hotel in Las Vegas, Mr. Simpson had no history of a criminal conviction. That was incorrect [because] in 1989, [Mr. Simpson] pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to misdemeanor battery of [Nicole Brown] Simpson, who was then his wife.” The Parole Board was blind to Mr. Simpson’s criminal past because his “1989 conviction did not appear in the N.C.I.C. history when Nevada officials prepared a pre-sentencing report.” The
omission [of the past criminal record] highlights a frequent problem: There are major gaps in the databases, which rely primarily on accurate and complete reporting by local and state agencies.
The Justice Department has reported, for example, that states fail to transmit most of their active arrest warrants from their own databases into the federal system and often neglect to update records to show whether cases resulted in convictions. Some states still rely on paper files, making it likelier that they will not end up in the federal electronic records database, and that is even more of a problem with older records.