Weaknesses In The Missouri Sex Offender Program​

October 16, 2018
An audit found weaknesses in state laws, highway patrol procedures and the enforcement of registry requirements.
Backgrounds Online | October 16, 2018

An audit found weaknesses in state laws, highway patrol procedures and the enforcement of registry requirements.

About The Audit

Missouri’s Sex Offender registration program was reviewed by the State Auditor to evaluate three primary items:
The effectiveness of law enforcement in enforcing state requirements.
The efficiency of management practices regarding registration.
Compliance with legal provisions related to registration.

The registration process is managed by the Criminal Justice Information Services Division of the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) with assistance from state and local agencies. The MSHP maintains a database of individuals who are required to register. This information is made available to the public via a website.

Schools Are Not Required To Background Check Volunteers

One of the biggest issues found during the audit was that state does not require background checks on school volunteers. This means people who are allowed to work with students have not necessarily gone through a background screening process. These volunteers may work in classrooms, participate in field trips and have direct access to young people.

Some schools have voluntarily implemented background screening policies for their volunteers, but there is no state law that says it is required. The Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) merely recommends that districts perform a basic check. The audit indicated this as a major weakness. Any person who is allowed to work with students should first go through a comprehensive background screening.

Missouri Cannot Account For More Than 1,200 Offenders

Sex offenders are required to register as frequently as every 90 days. This allows the state to keep track of their whereabouts and other activities. More than 1,200 offenders have not fulfilled this requirement and the state has lost track of them.

According to the audit, at least 794 of these individuals are Tier III offenders, which means they have been convicted of the most serious types of sexual offenses. In most cases, arrest warrants have not been issued for these non-compliant offenders. Law enforcement officers have reportedly put a higher priority on other issues.

Concerns About Highway Patrol Procedures

Another issue addressed in the audit is that the MSHP does not properly maintain the sex offender database. Offenders who are out of compliance, by not completing their registration requirements, are shown to be fully compliant.

Nicole Galloway, who led efforts to conduct the audit, said that this situation is “Providing a false sense of security. The public assumes information in the sex offender registry is correct, when in fact it is not.”

An additional concern expressed about MSHP procedures was that they have not created agreements with other state agencies to share information. Doing this can help relocate offenders who failed to register. On top of these issues, the audit noted the MSHP does not have a system in place that can adequately spot incorrect or inappropriate data entered into the system.

The full audit, including a response from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, can be found here.

The Importance Of Strong Background Screening Procedures

Despite not being mandated by the state, many Missouri schools run background checks on all volunteers. At Backgrounds Online, we consider this to be an essential task. Volunteers who will have access to young people, the elderly or anyone else should go through a comprehensive criminal background check. This helps to verify that the person does not have a serious or otherwise violent criminal past.

If you have questions about how you can improve your background screening process, please contact us. Our team is experienced at creating background check packages that are ideal for employees, contractors, volunteers and other business-related situations. We are available to assist you Monday – Friday from 5am to 6pm PT.