TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s top Democratic state lawmaker plans to introduce a measure to crack down on enforcing criminal background checks of workers at group homes.
Senate President Steve Sweeney told NJ.com that he will introduce a bill to strengthen the background check requirements after an audit found that providers were able to make decisions on their own about applicants with criminal histories.
“Every potential worker should get a background check and anyone identified as a safety threat should be removed or disqualified,” he said.
A recent audit found that nearly 8 percent of direct care workers did not have background checks and some with criminal records were still hired.
The audit found nine people employed even after a background check uncovered a disqualifying crime, including one person who is on parole until 2028 after they were convicted of murder.
The disqualifying crimes are murder, first-degree homicide, armed robbery, assault and battery, endangering the welfare of a child and drug offenses.
But state law now lets the 570 group homes and supervised housing providers decide if an individual has shown they are rehabilitated after a criminal conviction. The homes and providers help about 8,000 people in the state.
The supervised housing providers help people with autism and other developmental disabilities with everyday activities like feeding and dressing.
“There should be no confusion and no exceptions when it comes to entrusting people with the responsibility to care for this vulnerable population,” Sweeney said.