News & Resources

Rape charges highlight loopholes in Massachusetts court system''s background checks

Feb 17, 2011 Matt Roesly

The court system in Massachusetts is in hot water with some after it was revealed that it had hired a convicted sex offender as an officer. WFXT-TV reports that Charles Tatum was hired as an associate court officer in 2001 and successfully passed a background screening, despite the fact that he had been convicted of a sex crime in South Carolina in 1986 and of criminal trespassing in 1991. Tatum's past crimes were only discovered after a recent arrest on rape charges in Brockton, close to the place he worked. Prior to being hired by the Massachusetts Trial Court, Tatum's record was processed through the Court Activity Record Information, which only looked for convictions in Massachusetts and not other states. Laurie Myrers, a victim's rights advocate, said that the state was putting people at risk by failing to properly look into employees' records fully. "We have people in vulnerable positions being brought into court, being arraigned," said Myers in an interview with the news source. "Even the prisoners that he's taking care of or responsible for are at risk, [h]e's bringing people in, they are handcuffed. They are in a jail cell. They're vulnerable." Some in other states have been calling for more thorough background screenings as well. The Chicago Tribune reports that advocates for the disabled have been calling for better checks for those employed by the state who work with the disabled.