Law Enforcement for CORI Reform

Massachusetts Law Enforcement Leaders Support CORI Reform

Participating in Press Conference (5/18/10):

Ed Davis, Boston Police Commissioner
Dan O’Leary, President of the Massachusetts Major Police Chiefs Association
Dan Conley, Suffolk Country District Attorney
Andrea Cabral, Suffolk County Sheriff
Brian Kyes, Chelsea Police Chief
James DiPaola, Middlesex County Sheriff
Paul MacMillan, MBTA Police Chief
Matt Machera, former Assistant District Attorney and former head of the Safe Neighborhoods Initiative in the DA’s office

-Major Law Enforcement Officials Stand Up for Passage of CORI Reform Legislation

-They support CORI reform because it lessens crime and save taxpayers money

-Boston Police Commissioner Davis, District Attorney Conley, Sheriff Cabral, Major Police Chief Association Chief O’Leary, Sheriff DiPaola, and Chelsea Chief Kyes stand together for CORI reform

In a major step in the 4 year campaign to pass CORI reform legislation, major Massachusetts law enforcement figures stand together to speak about why this is so important to lessening crime which mean less crime victims and also saving taxpayers money from new prosecutions and imprisonments.

Law enforcement leaders held a Press Conference on Tuesday May 18 at the State House in Nurses Hall.

The CORI reform law is headed to a vote in the House this month as part of a Crime Bill the House is preparing. The Senate has passed a Crime Bill with positive CORI reform pieces.

CORI’s are the records of previous arrests, convictions, not guilty rulings, and continuances without a finding rulings which employers have access to affecting hiring decisions. The current CORI law has so severely restricted jobs chances of ex-offenders that it ends up contributing to recidivism which means more crime, more crime victims, and more costs to taxpayers from increased prosecutions and imprisonments.

A small number of critics say that such reform is “soft on crime”, but the people who know best about crime prevention, these police chiefs, prosecutors, and sheriffs, are standing up for CORI reform legislation because they know it will cut crime and lessen taxpayer costs. That’s being “smart on crime”.

Why does CORI reform lessen crime and save taxpayers money?

Right now 40% of ex-offenders commit new crimes in their first three years and most return to prison. While not getting a job is never an excuse for committing a crime, common sense says severe restrictions on getting jobs imposed by the current CORI law can lead to an ex-offender going down the wrong path again and committing new crimes.

New crimes mean new victims in our communities with all the consequences to victims and their families that last forever from those experiences. In this time of recession causing budget deficits causing cuts in services, we need to stop the exploding costs for prosecutions and imprisonments that could be significantly lessened with passage of this legislation.

Key provisions in the pending CORI Reform Law bill that’s part of the pending Crime Bill are:

1. Not allowing questions on job applications about previous arrests or convictions so the applications are not set aside at the point of application. Employers can still check on CORI’s during the jobs application process but not eliminate people up front.

2. Lowering sealing times for CORI records from employers from 15 years for felonies to 10 years and from 10 years from misdemeanors to 5 years. Law enforcement always has full access to all CORI records forever. The public always has access to records of sex offenders and murderers.

3. Giving employers access to the state’s up to date and more accurate CORI records instead of only a small number of employers as happens now. This will give employers more accurate records and at lower cost than those provided by private data companies and generate some new revenue for the state in this time of state budget deficits.

CORI reform will give ex-offenders a real second chance for redemption and to show they are rehabilitated. As Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis says, “CORI reform won’t help the ‘frequent fliers’, the repeat offenders, because they will never qualify for its provisions”.

Unfortunately under the present system, even those with not guilty findings and “continuance without a finding” verdicts still get CORI’s which means they go through life restricted in getting jobs even thought they were officially innocent.

For more information, contact Lew Finfer of Massachusetts Community Action Network

2. Boston Globe: Police officials ask change in records law (5/19)
3. Boston Herald: Mom keeps paying for mistake (5/19)
4. Associated Press: Top Mass. officials show support for CORI reform (5/19)
5. State House News Service: DA Conley Remarks on CORI Reform (5/18)

2. Police officials ask change in records law

By Maria Cramer, Globe Staff | May 19, 2010

Several top law enforcement officials endorsed a legislative effort yesterday to change a state law that allows employers and landlords access to criminal records of job applicants and potential tenants.

The officials — including the Suffolk County sheriff and prosecutor and the Boston police commissioner, as well as police chiefs from Brookline, Chelsea, and the MBTA — gathered at the State House to urge lawmakers to change aspects of the state’s criminal records system that make it difficult for former convicts to find employment and housing. The legislation is supported by Governor Deval Patrick and has been passed by the Senate. The House is expected to debate the measure soon.

Advocates are eager to win passage this year of legislation that would limit how long certain criminal records are accessible to the public.

“Police chiefs don’t sign on to this bill easily, because it appears to be soft on crime,” said Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis. “But it’s anything but soft on crime. . . . It’s smart on crime.”

If more former offenders have the opportunity to find work, that could lead to less recidivism and improved public safety, Davis said.

“It will decrease the amount of victims in the Commonwealth if we pass this bill,” he said.

Davis said he was walking through downtown recently when he was stopped by a man in his 30s who told him he could not get a job because of his criminal record. As the man told his story, he burst into tears, Davis said.

“Keep trying. . . . We’re trying to change the law,” Davis recalled telling him. “That’s all I could say.”

The legislation approved by the Senate would prohibit employers from eliminating candidates at the start of an application process because they have a criminal record. It would also allow misdemeanor records to be sealed five years after final disposition of a case, instead of the current 10, and felony records to be sealed in 10 years, instead of the current 15. The criminal records of murderers and sex offenders would remain accessible to the public throughout the offender’s life.

The measure would also allow former convicts to review their criminal records at no charge, would increase penalties for the deliberate misuse of such records, and would create a new offense for using the records to harass former convicts.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said the changes passed by the Senate strike a balance between an employer’s right to know about a prospective employee and the needs of a former convict looking for work. The Senate bill allows employers better access to criminal records information that would be more up to date, more clearly explained, and available online.

“The rights of employers to critical information, the hope of ex-offenders to earn, and I stress the word earn, and the all-important mandate to promote the public safety [are] not mutually exclusive,” Conley said.

Suffolk Sheriff Andrea J. Cabral, who runs the county’s two jails, said the cost of incarcerating people makes changes vital. It costs about $42,000 a year to house an inmate in Suffolk jails, she said.

“This is so simple and so cost-efficient,” Cabral said of the proposed changes. “This bill has to be passed, because at the rate we’re going . . . we will bankrupt our system if we continue to spend the money that it costs to incarcerate people.”

The state’s Criminal Offender Record Information system was created in 1972 to control the release of information about a person’s record. Initially, access was limited to law enforcement agencies, but since then it has become available to the public.

Convicts and even people who were accused of crimes but not convicted say the records make it difficult to get decent jobs.

Such records are often difficult to understand, police said. For example, it can be hard to determine how an allegation was resolved.

3. Mom keeps paying for mistake

By Peter Gelzinis
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In a life now reduced to a distant memory, Cassandra Bensahih worked for six years as a medical secretary.

She cared for her three children. She paid rent on an apartment. And she made the mistake of believing she could pull her life back from a riptide of drugs and alcohol.

Then this middle-age single mother spent a year in jail for selling drugs to fuel her own habit.

In March 2007, Cassandra Bensahih was released from jail. She has been clean and sober ever since. She accepts full responsibility for her crime.

But that hasn’t helped her find a job, or an apartment. Honesty hasn’t enabled her to get off Supplemental Security Income, or reunite with her kids who are stranded in foster care because she can’t pay for a home of her own.

Fact is, being honest about her past has only made Cassandra Bensahih a prisoner of it.

“I can’t even get a job at Target or Wal-Mart,” she said yesterday. “As soon as I check that CORI box on the job applications, they never call me back.

“They won’t even give me a chance to explain my situation, or allow me to prove that I could be a valued employee, a credit to their company. How am I supposed to rebuild my life if they won’t even give me a chance? I’m not asking for the state to support me. All I want is a chance.”

At the State House yesterday, a parade of law-and-order officials lined up to support ex-cons like Cassandra Bensahih. Suffolk DA Dan Conley, Suffolk Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and a trio of neighboring police chiefs all said the Criminal Offender Record Information Law has become counterproductive.

“For a long time, CORI reform has been gridlocked,” said Conley, “with seemingly no middle ground to be found that balances public safety with the goal of providing offenders with a fair opportunity to remake their lives.”

Davis made it clear that the reform he sought from the Legislature “would not be applicable to our frequent flyers, those offenders we see time and time again. It’s not about being soft on crime,” he said, “but being smart on crime.”

Reforming CORI simply would allow Cassandra Bensahih the chance to fill out an application and have an interview before an employer could run a check. For those who do not reoffend, it would seal CORI records after five years for misdemeanors and after 10 years for felonies.

The alternative to such “common sense, cost-effective” reforms, as Andrea Cabral called them, is to continue to have us taxpayers spend $42,000 a year to keep each prisoner in her jail.

4. Top Mass. officials show support for CORI reform
Associated Press
May 19, 2010

BOSTON -Some of the most high-profile law enforcement authorities in Massachusetts are backing a legislative effort to change the state law allowing access to criminal records.

The Suffolk County sheriff and district attorney, Boston’s police commissioner, and suburban police chiefs urged lawmakers on Tuesday to change the state’s Criminal Offender Record Information system, known as CORI, which some say makes it difficult for those with criminal records to land jobs or get housing.

The legislation supported by Gov. Deval Patrick, which shortens the time records for some crimes are accessible, has been passed by the Senate and is pending in the House.

Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis calls the proposal “smart on crime” because it could lead to less recidivism and improve public safety.

Information from: The Boston Globe,

5. State House News Service: DA Conley Press Release


May 18, 2010



BOSTON, May 18, 2010-Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley today delivered the following remarks on the need for Criminal Offender Record Information reform at the Massachusetts State House:

“As the District Attorney for Suffolk County, I take seriously my obligation to bring criminal offenders to justice, to serve victims, and to use all the powers of my office to protect the public safety. For a long time, the issue of CORI reform has been gridlocked with seemingly no middle ground to be found that balances the public safety with the goal of providing offenders with a fair opportunity to remake their lives as responsible, productive and law abiding citizens.

“Over the past two years, members of my staff and I have had the pleasure of engaging in wide ranging, substantive, and fact-based discussions about CORI reform with people of good will and tremendous integrity, representing any number of constituencies and perspectives on CORI reform. The result of those discussions was that I became convinced that the rights of employers to critical information, the hope of ex-offenders to earn a second chance - and I stress the word earn - and the all-important mandate to promote the public safety, were not mutually exclusive. In fact, the CORI reform provisions adopted by the Senate in November achieved this balance and deserve passage by the House as well.

“These smart, responsible, and responsive reform provisions give offenders who are sincere about moving on with their lives the opportunity they need while also giving employers the information they deserve to make appropriate hiring decisions. It facilitates a hiring process that resembles those used in professional offices like my own where a criminal background check is the final step in the process and not the first. This gives applicants an opportunity to get their foot in the door and, rather than being eliminated from consideration at the outset due to perhaps an infraction or youthful indiscretion, allows them to demonstrate growth, maturation and self-improvement in the intervening years.

“At the same time, the Senate CORI provisions are structured so as not to run afoul of or interfere with existing state and Federal law that expressly prohibits certain individuals from being employed in certain fields. The Senate provisions also address the all-important issue of making CORI more accurate and readable.

“In all, as Suffolk District Attorney I can support these CORI reform provisions because in so doing, I can assure the people I serve that this is in fact a smart-on-crime bill that serves the interests of public safety.

“I applaud the Senate, Governor Patrick, and the men and women standing here today for the time and effort each of them put into crafting these CORI reform provisions. It was a result of many months, if not years, of effort, listening, and coalition building. It strikes a deliberate and delicate balance that reflects the legitimate concerns of those who have been reluctant to support CORI reform as well as the worthy aspirations of those who believe that we can give those who are sincere in their desire to grow beyond their mistakes a second chance without undermining employers or compromising public safety. I applaud the Senate for its work in advancing CORI reform and I respectfully urge the House to pass the same.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley

Contact: Jake Wark 617-619-4206 617-872-729 [email protected]

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