With the legislative session now behind us, the Coalition to Reform Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) — a statewide coalition of labor unions, interfaith groups, legal, political and community groups — would like to address the fear campaign that some in the business community waged to stall reform in the CORI system.
House Bill 5004 contained provisions that could have improved the CORI system by expanding access to jobs and housing for people with records. It was based on a bill introduced by Gov. Deval Patrick. Neither made it to the governor’s desk by session’s end.
The Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the National Federation of Independent Business want the public to believe that CORI reform will prevent employers from conducting criminal background checks and that it would somehow help sex offenders. Both assertions are false.
H. 5004 would have removed the criminal background question from initial job applications. This would allow potential candidates to have their experience and skills evaluated before a CORI check takes place. The check would still occur — at the end, rather than the beginning, of the hiring process.
It also would have reduced the time period after which an offense can be sealed to 10 years for a felony and 5 years for a misdemeanor. These waiting periods do not start until after prison terms, probation, parole and any other court sentences have ended. One’s “CORI clock” would also restart if another crime is committed.
Reduced waiting periods would help reformed offenders access employment and do not harm employers. Many recidivism studies have shown that a person who remains crime-free for seven years has a less than a 1 percent chance of ever returning.
The proposed changes would not help sex offenders; on the contrary, H. 5004 would have made all sex offenses unsealable forever, so that no sex offender could seal any part of the criminal record. Moreover, there are numerous protections built into the sealing statute. For example, certain crimes can never be sealed.
As the Legislature reconvenes for the 2009-2010 legislative session, it is critical that we adopt policies that balance the needs of people with CORI records and employers’ access to relevant information when making hiring decisions.