Criminal Records (CORI) Reform

Yesterday, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard several bills related to criminal records reform.

I’ve been a strong supporter of reform for our Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system for many years, because I think these reforms are urgently needed to improve public safety, boost our economy, and ensure that our system is treating people fairly and in accordance with our basic notions of justice.

I’m proud to be a co-sponsor of  House Bill 3523/Senate Bill 1608, An Act to Reform CORI, Restore Economic Opportunity and Improve Public Safety. Here is the testimony I submitted to the committee yesterday, detailing the reasons I support the legislation:

Dear Chairwoman Creem and Chairman O’Flaherty,

I am writing in strong support of House Bill 3523/Senate Bill 1608, An Act to Reform CORI, Restore Economic Opportunity and Improve Public Safety.

Our current Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system is broken, and every day constituents of ours across the Commonwealth are falling through the cracks. The Legislature has grappled with this issue for many years, but the problem is urgent, and the time to pass meaningful CORI reform is now.

Our current criminal records system is outdated, and needs to be changed to reflect the new ways it is being used. By simplifying the sealing process, ending the dissemination of irrelevant, outdated records, and providing employers with the tools they need to better evaluate the risks and benefits of hiring an individual with a CORI record, we can make the process better for employers, community groups, landlords, and law enforcement, as well as those individuals with a CORI record.

This is an issue I often hear about from my constituents. Just last week, a gentleman called our office looking for help finding a job. He had just finished probation, and was hitting dead end after dead end on the job market. Although he had been interviewed for jobs several times, he would never hear from an employer again after they checked his background.  This man was trying hard to get back on his feet and find a job, but the information on his CORI record was blocking him at every turn. It’s difficult in these situations when there is little, as a legislator, you can do to help the individual with a CORI record find work. It is on behalf of these constituents and their families that I write in support of this legislation.

Reforming our CORI system makes sense on three levels: first, as a public safety measure; second as an economic booster, and third (though just as important), as an issue of basic fairness.

Public Safety: Our current CORI system actually makes it more likely that an ex-offender will commit another crime, because of the way it prevents those with CORI records from reintegrating into our system.

The biggest predictor of whether an ex-offender will successfully re-integrate is whether or not they can find adequate housing and employment.  We should be encouraging those who have served their time to find a steady job and stay out of trouble, rather than placing additional barriers in their way. This legislation would remove some of these barriers to reintegration and lower recidivism rates in our communities.

Economic: Our current CORI system also poses difficulties for employers looking to hire the best people possible to fill positions. Because CORI reports are difficult to read and often filled with irrelevant or even inaccurate information (such as cases that were dismissed, or incorrectly entered information), employers often end up rejecting candidates who would otherwise be a good fit. Reforming our CORI system will help employers make better-informed decisions, reducing unnecessary barriers to people seeking employment and helping grow our economy.

Fairness: Finally, CORI reform is at its core about fairness – and the many cracks in our current system show the unfairness that many currently face:

o   Because the system is based on outdated technology, there are literally hundreds of thousands of records that legally should be sealed but aren’t – and those seeking to have their records sealed face a bureaucratic mess when trying to do so.

o   In this country, we believe that people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And yet current CORI records often notes on cases that were dismissed, or cases where the defendant was found not guilty. As a result, many people who were never found guilty of a single crime have CORI records that often hurt their chances of finding employment.

o   Finally, someone who has paid their debts to society should not be punished forever.  It is true that many people with a CORI record have made a serious mistake, and we should never take those crimes lightly. But once someone has served their time, as a society we should try to help them make the best of their second chance and become a productive member of society.

The Legislature has had a proud record this session of reforming our outdated systems, from our transportation system to our ethics and pension systems. I encourage the committee to help us take the next step, in reforming our criminal records system, by reporting H3523/S1608 out favorably.

Thank you for the consideration of my remarks.

Very Truly Yours,

signature

James B. Eldridge
State Senator
Middlesex and Worcester District

5 thoughts on “Criminal Records (CORI) Reform

  • Hi Jamie,
    As a retired Police Officer, I am totally in favor of reforming the CORI background checks that can effect ones employment.
    Off corse, depending of the circumstances, I feel all of us a human, and we all have skeletions in our closet, everyone deservers another chance to not be dicrimatived against, because of an OUI, even if it was CWOF’ed, which is a non guilty, but it still shows up on their background check, which can hamper their chances to gain employment , ie. bus driver, freight driver etc.
    This is only one small part of the system that should take a close look at the recordes, which should be sealed, to avoid lack of employment,. This will lead to increasing crime without a job!!!
    Please try you best along with your costinguints to change the availabilty to employees, of corse according to the severity of the case.
    Congradulation, to the Senate, you have always had my support, right down to talking to you at 7 Main St restraunt.
    Good Luck.
    Can you please keep me informed of the progress?
    One other issue, that myself along with many of my co- workers is the so Called ” Wind Fall Provision Act”.
    This reduces the amount of Social Security you receive upon retirement, age 62, because you have another retirement plan, like Middlesex Retirement.
    This is not fair , as I as well as many, have paid their fair share into Social Security, as for myself.
    What about te people that have a pension and draw on their 401 K, they don’t see a reduction.
    This really should be changed, its not fair to all of us that paid into SS for years because we have a pension.

    Jamie, can you please let me know if this is on the table to be reformed, or what the status is.
    I would appreciate it.
    Thank You in Advance.
    Retired, Shirley Police Officer
    Steven B. Clark

  • Officer Clark,

    Thanks very much for your comment, and yes I remember well our discussions at Seven Main Street! Thanks for your support of CORI reform, and I will keep you posted on the bill’s progress.

    On the windfall provision, I agree it is unfair, and I will look into that bill. Is that a state or federal bill?

    Keep in touch, Jamie

  • Has there been any resolution on House Bill 3523 and Senate Bill 1608 to close records of non-violent felonies? Sentence served should not be lifetime, and grateful that you are aware of the importance of so many to begin life anew. Thank you for all your help.

  • Hi Diane –

    Thank you for your comment! The House & Senate have both passed a version of CORI reform this session. Those bills are currently in Conference Committee, where the differences between the two bills are worked out through negotiation.

    We’re hopeful that the Conference Committee work will wrap up in the next few weeks, in time for final passage before the end of session.

    If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our office!

    Melissa Threadgill
    Communications Director for State Senator Jamie Eldridge

  • Iam looking forward for the cori reform to come to a positive final decision.I try to seal my record from 13 years ago,was disallow ;on a one time offender and change my life around for the better.I now attend MEDICAL ASST school and will be hard for me to get employeed because of my record.I just want another chance in life not be punish for soething that i did my time for and will live with the shame for the rest of my life.If any information feel free to send me an email.Thank you for your time.

    SINCERLY,Raquel

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