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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Judith Brown Clarke
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Public Affairs and Administration
Title: Evaluating the Effectiveness and Benefit-Cost of the Michigan Background Check Program Using Crime Opportunity Theory
Dr. Robert Peters, Chair
Dr. L. Robert McConnell
Dr. Lori Post
Dr. Laurence Rosen
Date: Friday, November 9, 2007 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
WMU Lansing Campus, Room G
Prior to April 2006, Michigan law did not require employees with direct patient access in long-term care settings to undergo a criminal background check. Additionally, for those employees who were subject to background checks, there was no systematic process across health and human service agencies to conduct the checks, disseminate the findings, or to follow through on the results. The complexity of the issue created voids and liabilities, which potentially put Michigan’s most vulnerable population at risk.
The Michigan Background Check Program (MBCP) provided a consistent and comprehensive process that ensured direct-patient care job applicants were screened through a five-point registry process. Recidivism literature supports the concept that past behavior is a strong predictor of future behavior; therefore, knowledge of an offender’s prior record is a general indicator of the dangerousness and propensity to re-offend.
Crime Opportunity Theory rests on the principle that easy or tempting opportunities entice people into criminal action. Felson and Clarke (1998) argue that no crime can occur without the physical opportunities to carry it out, thus reducing opportunities will produce a positive change in criminal outcomes. The MBCP is an excellent example of an opportunity-reduction program that reduces the capacity and access of inappropriate individuals to vulnerable individuals in long-term care settings.
The overall purpose of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness and benefit-cost of the MBCP. Approximately 202,450 applicants were screened with an exclusion rate of 5% (or 3,771 applicants). Prior to the MBCP, agencies varied greatly in the frequency and number of registries used. Therefore, it is assumed that the comprehensive MBCP eliminated applicants with disqualifying backgrounds that the prior system would have passed.
The excluded individuals included 16 or 2% of people with homicide convictions; 27 or 3% had rape or criminal sexual assault convictions; 181 or 19% had assault/weapons convictions, 188 or 20% had larceny/theft convicts, 140 or 15% had fraud convictions, and 64 or 7% had drug-related convictions. Additionally, the MBCP was considered economically efficient because the benefits (savings of $27,444,360) exceeded the costs ($3,689,908) by 744%.
Findings from this research assisted federal and state policymakers in the development of better background investigation techniques, legislation, and budgeting for hiring practices in long-term care settings, as well as, generalization to other settings providing direct access to vulnerable populations.