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Comparison of Criminal-History Information Systems in the United States and Other Countries

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2020
214 pages
Since little is known about how the United States' criminal history system compares with those in other industrialized countries, this study documents and compares the national criminal-history systems in the United States, Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Germany, and the Netherlands.
The comparisons address the uses and sources of criminal-history data, procedures for assessing record accuracy and completeness, efforts to improve the systems, and the availability of criminal-history records to governmental and non-governmental entities for operational and research purposes. The study concludes that there is considerable variation among the criminal-history information systems of the countries examined regarding how they approach the collection, management, and uses of criminal-history information through their national information systems. Notable differences include the scope of criminal-history data collection, retention of criminal-history information, and access arrangements for both operational and civilian purposes. These differences assist in shaping how criminal-history data can be used in the work of various criminal-justice agencies and their partners. It can also be used in the rehabilitation of individuals involved in the criminal justice system. Information systems that begin collecting data at earlier stages of individuals' involvement with the criminal justice system and/or retain data for longer periods of time can provide criminal justice agencies with more information. This can be used in law enforcement, criminal investigations, and sentencing decisions. Large-scale data collection and/or retention may be more likely to confront privacy and civil rights issues, however, particularly regarding non-conviction data. On the other hand, systems with more restrictive data collection and dissemination rules tend to foster the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals involved with the criminal justice system. Common characteristics and their benefits pertain to automation and standardization. Extensive tables and figures

Date Published: April 1, 2020