What is the National Criminal History Improvement Program?
The National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP) is a U.S. Justice Department program through the Bureau of Justice Statistics that provides direct awards and technical assistance to states and localities to improve the quality, timeliness, and immediate accessibility of criminal history records and related information. This program helps states integrate and link data systems around criminal records, including law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and corrections information systems. NCHIP assists states to improve their information infrastructure to connect information about criminal records, and the individuals who have them, for multiple purposes.
Why is NCHIP funding critical to expunging and sealing old criminal records?
80 million people have old criminal records. More than 40,000 laws, policies, and practices can prevent a person with an arrest, misdemeanor, or felony conviction from accessing employment, housing, or education. These laws essentially lock people into a cycle of post-conviction poverty long after they have completed their sentence which undermines stability, families, public safety, and the overall economy.
For these reasons, a growing number of states are enacting legislation to automatically expunge and seal old criminal records. However, states face challenges with implementation due to outdated record systems and lack of infrastructure.
The Alliance for Safety and Justice recognized these challenges and advocated expanding NCHIP’s allowable use. In March 2022 the NCHIP program was updated so that one of its allowable purposes includes funding for states to improve their record systems to “seal and expunge criminal history information in accordance with state laws and policies.”
When and to whom did ASJ advocate that there be increased funding for NCHIP?
After the NCHIP program was amended in March 2022, ASJ continued to advocate for increased funding for this program and further clarify that implementing state-based expungement and sealing policies is a key purpose area for this program. In December 2022, Congress approved $95 million in funding for NCHIP that can be used for this purpose.
It is important to increase funds for the NCHIP program because the demand for this type of federal support is growing: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Utah have passed and are implementing these types of policies. Florida and Texas are considering similar changes. Oklahoma and Colorado passed automated expungement and sealing laws, just this year.
What is the status of NCHIP and the effort to support the implementation of state-based criminal record change laws?
- One out of five dollars allocated in the fiscal year 2022 for NCHIP went to a grant that supported a state effort to expunge or seal old criminal records, including grants to California, Utah, Connecticut, and Virginia;
- Congressional actions in June 2022 appropriated $200 million dollars for the NCHIP program, which can be used to support states implementing sealing and expungement laws over the next five years;
- On December 23, 2022, as part of the final budget agreement for federal spending for the fiscal year 2023, the U.S. Congress approved an additional $95 million in funding for NCHIP.