As we have noted before, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights had dipped its toe in to the area of criminal background checks . The Commission jumped in to the fray again with a recent announcement and public briefing on May, Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption, and the Effects on Communities. We noted before the freewheeling hearing that included allegations of inaccurate criminal background checks. Our comment hit several points: (1) Criminal background checks for work, residential, and volunteer settings are critical to protect public safety; (2) The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act establishes protections for consumers, accuracy obligations on consumer reporting agencies, and enforcement regimes should there be conflicts; (3) Criminal background checks are reliable; (4) Employers, landlords, and volunteer organizations use criminal history checks in a responsible and focused manner; (5) Critical criminological information must be considered that shows the importance of criminal history checks; (6) Reducing the availability of criminal background checks is not the solution to reintegrating ex-prisoners in to society; and (7) There are ways to efficiently help reintroducing former prisoners in to the workforce without limiting the reliable criminal background checks employers need to protect their businesses, customers, and other employees.
Eric J. Ellman is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Legal Affairs at the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA) in Washington, DC. He also served for eight months as Interim President and CEO of the Association. More