(Senate - July 13, 1998)

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[Pages S8053-S8054]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mrs. MURRAY. Mr. President, I wish to speak for a moment as a 
cosponsor of the Crime Identification Technology Act of 1998. Mr. 
President, this is a bill that simply, but importantly, provides 
funding to states and local communities so they can conduct quality 
criminal background checks. This bill assures parents that dangerous 
adults will not be employed by their child's school or child care 
  There is no doubt that most children today head off to school or are 
dropped off at child care and are supervised by competent, qualified, 
caring adults. But as our society becomes increasingly violent, parents 
need the assurance that when their child is under another adult's care, 
steps have been taken to assure that the care-giver is qualified and 
competent and safe to take care of their child.
  Mr. President, we sit in outrage when television newscasters report 
yet another story of a child who has been abused or molested when 
parents thought they had found a safe place to take their child. 
Nothing frightens a parent more than a report of a child who has been 
abused by a predator--molesters, abusers or pedophiles.
  We do not have to sit and wait, Mr. President. We can and must do 
more. We have the laws to better screen those who care for our 
children. Let us use them. We must protect our children and see to it 
that they grow up in a safe environment. No child should ever suffer 
these kinds of traumas. That is why Mr. President, I am cosponsoring 
the Crime Identification Technology Act of 1998. I believe this bill is 
a strong step to accomplish the type of protection that is needed.
  We have a right to expect that those people to whom we entrust the 
care of our children are decent, upright, trustworthy individuals. 
Parents have a right to know that anyone who comes in contact with 
their children in an unsupervised environment has been appropriately 
screened. We have a right to know that anyone with a criminal history 
of child abuse, molestation and sexual crimes against children will be 
prevented from being in a position where they have access to our 
  In this highly mobile society we live in, we know that abusers move 
easily across state boundaries seeking jobs in places where they think 
their past will not catch up to them. If schools or child care 
providers only check in-state applicants for state criminal 
convictions--and do not require a fingerprint check which can be 
scanned against a national clearinghouse of convicted criminals--they 
have not adequately screened applicants before hiring them to oversee 
our children.
  In fact, Mr. President, a case that prompted the passage of laws 
requiring national criminal background checks in my home State of 
Washington, involved the arrest of a social worker who possessed 
hundreds of photos and videotapes of young boys engaged in sexual 
activities. He was charged on 40 counts of possession of child 
  The investigation began after one of the adolescents under his 
supervision accused him of sexual abuse. When the social worker was 
hired, a background check of this man was ``clean'' and reported ``no 
past problems.'' However, he was previously employed by a state agency 
far away, across state lines in Texas. Although the Washington state 
agency checked his references in Texas, they did not check to see if he 
had a criminal history in any other state.
  The background check did not extend beyond the borders of Washington 
state. State officials at the time admitted they had no routine way of 
determining whether any state worker had ever run afoul of the law 
outside Washington's borders.
  As a result of this incident, the Washington State Legislature closed 
this loophole by passing laws requiring national criminal background 
checks on workers and volunteers who deal with vulnerable populations 
such as children, the elderly and disabled.
  More recently, at a Washington, D.C. day care center, a substitute 
security guard was filling in for the regular guard, who was sick that 
day. That afternoon, the substitute guard was arrested on the 
premises--allegedly an accessory to murder a few months earlier.
  In this case, the security firm failed to screen the worker 
adequately. He was a resident of Maryland and the firm only checked 
state records which revealed no criminal record. However, the 
substitute guard had a long rap sheet in Washington D.C., which the 
security firm did not check. The failure of this security firm to 
conduct a background check of the neighboring state's jurisdiction put 
70 children at tremendous risk.
  It is imperative that we stop interstate movement and let abusers 
know that their backgrounds will be checked, their applications will be 
screened and national and state fingerprint checks will be conducted 
where appropriate. In addition, it is essential that we provide funds 
to the states so they can update their criminal history records and 
provide timely information when it is requested.
  Unfortunately, Mr. President, we live in a time that requires us to 
protect our children by screening and checking the backgrounds of 
volunteers and other people who have access to our children. Statistics 
reveal that 46 percent of child molesters are non-family members who 
are known to their victims. These are ``trusted'' adults, such as 
teachers, scoutmasters, coaches,

[[Page S8054]]

clergy, counselors and neighbors. As parents, we must be concerned 
about the people who have access to our children. The bottom line is 
that strict screening mechanisms and criminal background checks are 
vital to the safety of our children.
  Mr. President, I am cosponsoring this bill because it provides grants 
to the States for programs for fingerprint-supported background checks 
for non-criminal justice purposes. These purposes include screening 
youth service employees, volunteers, and other individuals in positions 
of trust--if authorized by federal or state law and administered by a 
government agency. This bill also promotes enhanced communication 
nationwide between local, state, and national computer systems for 
domestic violence and sexual offender identification and registration 
  The Crime Identification Technology Act of 1998 is also important 
because it provides necessary funding to the States so they can upgrade 
their criminal history record systems and improve criminal 
identification of sexual offenders.
  Mr. President, this bill is an effective way to stop pedophiles from 
stalking our children under the guise of employment or volunteer 
activity. It will also help States protect their children by letting 
sexual predators know that background checks and screening mechanisms 
will be conducted wherever they move.
  It is imperative that would-be employees not be able to avoid 
detection during background checks by failing to report their criminal 
past. The Raleigh News and Observer reported on January 8, 1997 that 
Terry Dondrell Howie pled guilty to being an accessory to a murder, at 
the same time he worked taking care of toddlers at a local day care 
  Howie was fired from his job at the day care center, three days after 
he was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in a deadly car-
jacking. Although a state law that requires annual background checks 
would have eventually caught his felony charges, day care employees 
facing felony charges can escape detection for months.
  There is no requirement that a lengthy background check be completed 
before a hiring because of the high turnover on day care center staffs.
  This can be a fatal practice that must be changed. Take the tragic 
case of 18-year-old Michelle Montoya, who--in 1997, as a senior in Rio 
Linda High School--was brutally raped and killed in the school's wood 
shop by a substitute janitor with a felonious past. The janitor was put 
on-the-job before fingerprint tests were completed. He had served time 
for voluntary manslaughter and just prior to the murder of Michelle, he 
had been paroled. Although California has since passed legislation 
prohibiting school districts from hiring employees before background 
checks are complete, the same is not true in every state.
  As parents we expect our schools and day care centers to protect or 
children. We must provide the funding and the attention necessary to 
correct this problem so that other families do not suffer the same kind 
of horrible tragedy and loss as the Montoya family.
  Mr. President, we cannot take any chances when it comes to protecting 
our children. We must do everything we can to ensure their safety and 
protection which is why I urge my colleagues to join me in support of 
this bill.
  Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Brownback). The clerk will call the roll.
  The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.
  Mr. ALLARD. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.