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Some Arizona Inmates Have Missing Criminal Records

Tagged under: News Arizona Court System Expeal

By Expeal on December 14, 2015.

Omid Ghaffari-Tabrizi found this picture of the entrance to the Arizona State Prison Complex.

According to the Arizona state government, fingerprint records and criminal histories for some Arizona inmates that were booked between 2007 and 2014 are missing. As a result, they would be able to pass background checks and will not have their civil rights taken away. Based on Arizona Department of Corrections records, there are at least 43 inmates that currently have incomplete records.

In 2007, the Arizona Department of Corrections noticed that hundreds of inmates were booked for a first offense without fingerprints being taken. At least one-third of those will be released or have already been released without any criminal history. The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission worked with the Arizona Department of Corrections to create a new system that would prevent this from happening in the future. However, as was pointed out (PDF warning), the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission recognized that there already are and will always be a few people that were released without a criminal record and will never have a criminal record so long as they do not reoffend.

The Arizona state government has already started a mobile fingerprinting system (PDF warning), with pilot projects launched in Maricopa and Pinal Counties. As Andrew LeFevre, the Public Information Officer and legislative liaison for the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission pointed out, "a [criminal] record check is only as accurate as the records that are in the system."

Marc Peoples, the Program Manager in charge of improving the criminal justice system explained how this happened in the first place. When a person is cited and released for a charge like drunk driving or otherwise (meaning they receive a citation that tells them when to show up but they are not actually arrested and taken to jail), they only have to show up to court. If they are convicted and sentenced to jail, they can end up serving time without ever having the initial booking fingerprints taken, the ones that will create a criminal record file.

Peoples has overseen a million dollar improvement, including the pilot program in Maricopa and Pinal Counties. Part of the improvements has included a stop-gap implemented in the system as a whole. Without having a fingerprint record, an individual is not allowed to proceed through the system until those fingerprints are taken. According to Peoples and the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, the new system and the new technology will "speed things up and make things more accurate."

If you were booked and released between 2007 and 2014, it may not be a bad idea to find out whether you were one of the dozens of people to benefit from this oversight. If you were, take advantage of this true second chance. If you were not, see if you qualify to have your civil rights restored or your criminal conviction set aside. Arizona’s law related to managing criminal records even allows some people who have been to prison to get back at least one or more of the rights they lost as a result of their conviction.

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