Yale, MSU Vow To Rebuild Michigan’S Background Check System - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

Yale, MSU Vow To Rebuild Michigan’s Background Check System

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Michigan State University and Yale University are joining hands to improve the strength of Michigan's background check system at no cost to the state.

The move is inspired by Dr. Lori Post, a Yale professor and researcher who lost her sister and brother-in-law to a gruesome act of violence in September 2011.
Christopher Perrien, 39, was convicted in late April of killing Mike and Terri Greene, a former MSP trooper and his wife, in their Eaton County home.

Officials say Perrien was out of jail on work release at the time of the killings. But Post says Perrien had multiple orders of protection against him for stalking and domestic abuse, and should have never been let go from jail. "Nobody knew he had that very extensive criminal history and that included the judge, that includes the prosecutors or his parole officers because this information sits in disparate courts across the whole state of Michigan," says Dr. Lori Post.  

Right now Post says criminal justice officials only have access to criminal convictions, and civil dispositions are not seen or considered when making a decision about work release. Post says if Perrien's civil dispositions had counted against him, he would have not been released from jail and may not have killed her sister and brother-in-law.

MSU and Yale both submitted letters of commitment to Republican Senator Rick Jones, stating they will contribute their resources to developing a comprehensive background check system in honor of Mike and Terri Greene. The institutions say the new system will integrate information on criminal convictions as well as civil dispositions to help judges, prosecutors, parole and probation officers make better decisions before letting an inmate go on work release.

Both universities have experience in developing background checks for state clients and say they have already created a structure to link existing background information on individuals throughout the state of Michigan.

Dr. Lori Post is considered a nationally-recognized expert on background check systems, and will work with another Yale colleague in addition another expert at MSU on the project.

Dr. Sarah Swierenga, director of the Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting department at MSU, says her department worked on building the Michigan Workforce Background Check system for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and for this project, will follow Yale's lead on integrating criminal and civil background information into one database for criminal justice officials.

"The proposed system would be similar to the Michigan Workforce Background check system in that it draws together and shares information across agencies, including the Michigan State Police, the Department of Corrections, other criminal history records, state and federal FBI fingerprint records and other departments that may be relevant," says Dr. Swierenga. "[It will integrate] these databases so that you can integrate somebody's information and have the system draw the information or search all of the other databases to see whether there's any hits on those would be relevant information for the situation at hand."

However, before the universities can put the system in place, proposed legislation would have to pass that would, according to the Yale New Haven Center for Healthcare Solutions, authorize and mandate access to civil dispositions when making decisions about work release. Legislation would also require officials to consider patterns of domestic and child abuse. Both Yale and MSU have backed the proposed legislation in writing.

Sen. Jones is currently sponsoring three bills in honor of Michael and Terri Greene, and says he plans to present them to lawmakers sometime this fall.

Emerald Morrow is a reporter with WLNS-TV. Reach out to her on Facebook, Twitter or email at emorrow@wlns.com.

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