Through the National Criminal History Improvement Program (NCHIP), BJS 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. Complete records require that data from all components of the criminal justice system be integrated and linked, including law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and corrections. NCHIP assists states to establish an integrated infrastructure that meets the needs of all components.
BJS initiated the NCHIP program in 1995 and makes awards annually on a competitive basis to states, territories, and federally recognized tribes. BJS issues a program announcement annually, describing program goals, priorities, application procedures, and allowable costs. BJS makes awards to the agency designated by the state governor to administer the NCHIP award. BJS bases award amounts on need rather than population or formula-based methodology.
Total expenditures since the inception in 1995 through 2021 were approximately $893 million. All states and eligible territories have received funds under the program. NCHIP was reauthorized under Title VI of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-141).
For information about current and past NCHIP funding announcements, see Funding & Awards.
Criminal history records describe offenses and offenders and include offender fingerprint identification and notations of arrest and subsequent dispositions. All states have established a criminal record repository that maintains criminal records and identification data and responds to law enforcement inquiries and inquiries for other purposes, such as background checks and national security. Criminal records include data provided by all components of the criminal justice system: law enforcement, prosecution, courts, and corrections. Automated interfaces with courts and prosecutors are critical to ensuring that all criminal records include dispositions at each stage of the criminal process. Criminal records include records of protection orders, sex offender registries, and other records of contacts with the justice system.
Accurate, timely, and complete criminal history records—
- enable states to immediately identify persons who are prohibited from firearm purchase or are ineligible to hold positions of responsibility involving children, the elderly, or the disabled
- enable criminal justice agencies to make decisions on pretrial release, career criminal charging, determinate sentencing, and correctional assignments
- are critical to assist law enforcement in criminal investigations and decision making
- are required for background checks for national security, employment, licensing, and related economic purposes, as required under recent legislation.
The FBI administers national systems that permit interstate access to criminal records maintained in all 50 states, including—
- National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Indices
- National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
- Interstate Identification Index (III)
- National Protection Order File
- National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR)
- Next Generation Identification (NGI) (formerly IAFIS).
NCHIP grant awards administered by BJS are used to:
- To ensure that accurate records are available for use in law enforcement (including sex offender registry requirements) and to protect public safety and national security.
- To permit states to identify—
- Ineligible firearm purchasers
- Persons ineligible to hold positions involving children, the elderly, or the disabled
- Persons subject to protection orders or wanted, arrested, or convicted of stalking and/or domestic violence
- Persons ineligible to be employed or hold licenses for specified positions
- Persons potentially presenting threats to public safety.
Priority Areas – Improving Dispositions and Mental Health Submissions Accessible to the NICS
Applicants must focus efforts on improving the 1) availability of dispositions (specifically for felony and misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence) through the national systems and 2) reporting records of persons prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reason to the NICS. Therefore, recipients of funds must agree to use a portion of awarded funds to make such records accessible to NICS unless the state certifies in the application that it already makes available all dispositions to the national systems and records demonstrating a person is prohibited from possessing firearms for mental health reasons to NICS; or will focus funds on another area of criminal history improvement that the recipient reasonably argues represents a greater information sharing gap.
- Direct funding to states to improve the quality, timeliness, and immediate accessibility of criminal history and related records (see Funding history)
- Technical assistance to states through an ongoing program that incorporates surveys, evaluations, and national forums for considering privacy issues and strategies, and direct guidance to states (see Special Projects and Initiatives)
- Assistance designed to promote participation in and improve the interface between states and the national records systems, including—
- FBI-administered NICS
- National Protection Order File
- National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR)
- Next Generation Identification (NGI).
* III, FBI data through December 2018.
Source: SEARCH, Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2018.
- III Participation: Since 1993, the number of states participating in III grew from 26 to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
- NICS: The NICS is now supporting more than 28 million checks annually at the presale stage of firearms purchases. The NICS infrastructure, developed through NCHIP funding, seamlessly transitioned from checks conducted by Brady-based Chief Law Enforcement Officers (CLEO) to the current system of Point of Contact (POC)/NICS and NICS only checks.
- Domestic Violence and Protection Orders: States have used NCHIP funds to initiate the flagging of criminal history records evidencing convictions for domestic violence or the issuance of a protection order. As of December 2021, 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have submitted over 2 million records to the National Protection Order File, which became operational in May 1997.
- Convicted Sex Offender Registries: NCHIP funds have assisted states in building sex offender registries and participating in the FBI's National Sex Offenders Registry (NSOR), which became operational in July 1999. As of December 2021, 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have provided over 867,000 records to the NSOR.
The NCHIP Technical Assistance (TA) program directly assists states to implement programs, policies, and technologies to upgrade criminal records and improve interface with the FBI's national systems. TA is provided through onsite visits, web training, telephone, training classes, workshops, and conferences (see below). Since its inception, the technical assistance program has been managed under a grant from BJS.
Onsite TA visits are coordinated with the FBI to facilitate participation in FBI programs, such as the III. Requests for assistance must be originated by the NCHIP grantee agency, although the assistance may be provided to any agency designated by the grant recipient.
NCHIP funds regular surveys to determine levels of record improvement, public attitudes on privacy and related issues, state responses to current issues, and firearm procedures. Surveys are conducted under grants to SEARCH and REJIS, and are released as part of the BJS publication series.
- Public Attitudes Toward Uses of Criminal History Information
- Survey of State Procedures Related to Firearm Sales
- Compendium of State Privacy and Security Legislation
Firearm Inquiry Statistics (FIST) program:
The Firearm Inquiry Statistics (FIST) program collects information on firearm applications and denials and combines this information with the FBI's NICS transaction data to produce an estimated number of background checks for firearm transfers or permits since the effective date of the Brady Act. Findings are published in statistical tables that describe trends in background check activities and report data on the number of firearm transaction applications processed by the FBI and by state and local agencies, the number of applications denied, reasons for denial, and estimates of applications by jurisdiction and by each type of approval system.
National Conferences and Workshops
NCHIP supports conferences and workshops on a regional and national basis to provide information to practitioners and policymakers, permit exchange of information among representatives of varying agencies across the 50 states, respond to needs of grantees receiving NCHIP funds, and coordinate with other units of state and federal government that are involved in record improvement activities and the operation of the national record systems.
- Criminal History Operations Workshop: The first in a series of workshops co-sponsored by BJS and SEARCH. Attendees shared information on a variety of topics, including compiling and disseminating criminal history records, disposition reporting, fingerprint issues, the role and responsibilities of repositories, and data quality issues.
- Protection Order/Domestic Violence Information Workshop: The second in the series of workshops, this was organized to help states improve their abilities to collect, use, and exchange protection order and related domestic violence information.
- Sex Offender Registry Workshop: The third in a series of workshops co-sponsored by BJS and SEARCH, this was designed to allow state representatives to come together to discuss issues, problems, and successes in establishing federally-mandated state sex offender registries.
- National Conference on Privacy, Technology, and Criminal Justice Information: This national conference capped a two-year Millennium Privacy Project undertaken by BJS and SEARCH. The conference featured the report of the National Task Force on Privacy, Technology, and Criminal Justice Information, including findings and recommendations for managing criminal justice information in the new technological environment. A public opinion survey of public toward privacy issues was also presented and released at the conference.
- Beyond the Technology: The Law and Policy Implications of Increased Biometric Use: Held November 2002 and co-sponsored by BJS and SEARCH, this conference examined the law and policy ramifications of biometric counterterrorism solutions.
Under its Millennium Privacy Project, BJS supported—
- a Task Force on Privacy, Technology, and Criminal Justice Records
(Report of the National Task Force on Privacy, Technology, and Criminal Justice Information)
- a National Survey of Public Attitudes Toward Uses of Criminal Record Data
(Public Attitudes Toward Uses of Criminal History Information)
- a National Conference on Privacy, Technology, and Criminal Justice Information
Background checks require that information be available on an interstate basis, coordinated though the FBI's national systems. BJS works with the FBI and the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Policy to ensure that NCHIP programs support the needs of the national systems. Complete records also require that data be obtained from all components of the criminal justice system within each state. NCHIP coordinates with the other Office of Justice Programs (OJP) initiatives designed to support record development and systems integration in order to ensure that all expenditures under NCHIP are consistent with OJP programs. Recipients of funds under NCHIP assure that systems developed with NCHIP funds are compatible with standards and procedures governing national systems (III, NICS, and the NCIC Protection Order File) and with state and local integration programs designed to ensure record compatibility. Funds are also available to implement state plans for system integration.
These reports are available in PDF format:
- State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Unlawful Drug Users (2017)
- State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Fugitives from Justice (2017)
- State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Misdemeanor Crimes of Domestic Violence (2016)
- State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Fingerprint Processing Advances Improve Background Checks (2016)
- State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Protection Order Submissions (2016)
- State Progress in Record Reporting for Firearm-Related Background Checks: Mental Health Submissions (2016)
- The Attorney General's Report on Criminal History Background Checks (2006)
- Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2018
- Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2016
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2014
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2012
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2010
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2008
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2006
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2003
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2001
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 1999
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 1997
Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 1995
Survey of Criminal History Information Systems, 1993, with Supplementary Information on Presale Firearms Checks, 1994
- Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2016
- Summary of State Firearm Transfer Laws, December 31, 2013
- Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2009: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearm Applicants Denied by a NICS Check in 2009
- Trends for Background Checks for Firearm Transfers, 1999-2008
- Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2008: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearm Applicants Denied by a NICS Check in 2008
- Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2007: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearm Applicants Denied by a NICS Check in 2007
- Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2006
- Federal Firearms Cases, FY 2007