Support for SB 61: Criminal History Records Checks

By Mary Ellen Russell, Executive Director

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee (01/14/2010)

This testimony is submitted by the Maryland Catholic Conference in SUPPORT of Senate Bill 61. The Conference represents the mutual public policy interests of the three Catholic arch/dioceses with territory in the state of Maryland: the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. Together the three dioceses operate more than 270 parishes, and 158 Catholic schools serving 55,000 students in Maryland.

Senate Bill 61 would broaden valuable child protection measures by extending criminal background check requirements to additional entities serving children, including private recreational centers and programs. The measure would also provide expanded information regarding the criminal histories of prospective employees, thereby improving the ability of employers to more thoroughly screen applicants in order to achieve a safe environment for the children under their care.

The institutions operated by the Catholic Church in Maryland are committed to stringent child protection policies, and have implemented procedures that often exceed state requirements for screening employees. As outlined in the attached policies, the three Catholic arch/dioceses operating in the state of Maryland not only require state and national criminal background checks and fingerprinting of all employees, but also mandate criminal background checks, and in some instances fingerprinting, of all volunteers who work in institutions serving children. Senate Bill 61 will further enhance the effectiveness of these measures by providing more detailed information about an individual’s criminal history, and will better enable us to determine the suitability of a prospective employee or volunteer to serve in our schools and parishes.

We urge you to support Senate Bill 61 as a measure that will strengthen child protection policies in our state, and the ability of employers to implement procedures that guarantee strict scrutiny of those who care for children served by their institutions.