MONDAY, JULY 26, 1999202/307-0703



Funds Support Improvements to Criminal History Records Nationwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today is awarding more than $38 million to states and territories to continue improving criminal history records, which can help law enforcement with background checks for guns and other purposes. The awards mark the fifth year of funding under the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), which has provided over $262 million to states and territories since 1995.

"This nation's system of background checks for gun purchases has already blocked more than 350,000 gun sales to ineligible persons," said Attorney General Janet Reno. "These grants will help us continue to make America safer by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals."

Criminal history records are fingerprint cards or their electronic counterparts, linked with information about arrests, convictions, and sentences. NCHIP funds are used to modernize and automate criminal history records systems. One of the primary purposes for FY 1999 NCHIP funds is ensuring that records of arrests also include information on the disposition of the cases. Automating records of dispositions will allow background checks to be completed more quickly and efficiently.

In addition to enhancing the FBI's National Instant Criminal History Background Check System (NICS), NCHIP funds are used to enhance the records that serve as the basis for the FBI's Interstate Identification Index, National Sex Offender Registry, and National Protection Order File. NCHIP grants also support advances in criminal record technology, including automated fingerprint identification systems and electronic mugshots.

Complete, accurate, and accessible criminal history records permit law enforcement officials to know if individuals questioned or detained have criminal histories and help courts avoid granting bail to individuals who may pose a danger to the community. Criminal history records are also vital for screening individuals for positions of trust where they have access to children, the elderly or disabled individuals. Records systems also identify persons with a criminal history of domestic violence and stalking subject to protection orders, as well as persons with a history of sex offenses.

NCHIP grants are made to state agencies designated by the governor, which may allocate funds to state criminal identification bureaus, courts, and other agencies that maintain information about arrests and dispositions of criminal cases. Award amounts are determined by the condition of the state's records, the purposes for which funds were requested, and the impact that improvements will have on the availability of records throughout the national system.

Every state applied for and will receive an FY 1999 NCHIP award. Fifty states and territories are receiving awards today. Nevada, Rhode Island, Texas, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico will receive awards later this year. The attached chart includes the amount of each award, the agency within the state that will receive the funds, and a state contact. Except where noted, funds awarded for the National Sex Offender Registry are included in the NCHIP total.

More information on BJS, including statistics on background checks for gun purchases, is available through the BJS Website at BJS is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which provides information on criminal justice programs and research at

Media should call OJP's Office of Congressional and Public Affairs at 202/307-0703.


BJS 99156

After hours contact: Mike McCarthy at 202/305-0779