BOSTON (AP) — More than 120 personal care attendants, who are paid by Massachusetts to assist people with disabilities, were registered sex offenders and thousands had criminal records, according to a state watchdog agency.

The attendants, who help people with disabilities or chronic illnesses to maintain their independence, are paid for by the state’s Medicaid program, known as MassHealth, which allows its members to hire their own attendants and does not require background checks, the Boston Globe reported.

According to a 2018 report released by Massachusetts Inspector General Glenn Cunha in February, almost 12,000 attendants had a criminal record from the last decade, 122 of whom were sex offenders.

Bill Henning, executive director of the Boston Center for Independent Living, says the individual control the program allows is integral to its success, and that too many hiring requirements could interfere with its success.

Paul Spooner, who used attendants for decades, said if MassHealth conducted background checks, that would “fundamentally alter” the program.

MassHealth spokeswoman Jessica Lyons said in an email that the program “provides consumers with the tools to make safe and informed choices about who they hire, including educational materials and trainings on the importance of background checks.”