Operating under the theory that good jobs and putting people to work here in East Boston can break the cycle of poverty, depression, and crime in the community, a group of local activists marched at the end of February to urge lawmakers to pass Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) law reform.
The CORI law governs what information about a convicted offender may be made available to the public. In this legislative session– as in the sessions over the past decade– CORI has been a topic of serious public debate over who should have access to CORI records? How much CORI information should employers be permitted to have? Are CORI records accurate? Should portions of an offender’s record be expunged?
The rally was organized by the Boston Workers Alliance and was aimed at urging State Representatives in Massachusetts to cast a vote in favor of CORI reform.
“The CORI – our state’s criminal record check system – stops thousands from obtaining decent work,” said Aaron Tanaka, director of the Boston Workers Alliance. “Having a criminal record, even if it is old or was not guilty is preventing good people from finding work. The time for change is now.”
Tanaka added that for too long thousands of residents in East Boston who are suffering from CORI discrimination and joblessness.
East Boston State Representative Carlo Basile said Tuesday he’d support the CORI reform legislation once it comes out of the House’s Judiciary Committee.
“Too many people are being punished for mistakes they made years ago,” said Basile. “It’s time to break the cycle and allow these men and women the chance to find good, solid employment.”
The bill states that any employer, before making any adverse decision based on an individual’s CORI report must give the individual a photocopy of the report, inform the individual which part of the report would prompt an adverse decision, and afford him an opportunity, in a private discussion, to dispute the accuracy or relevance of the report’s contents.
However, some, like a coalition of Massachusetts District Attorneys argue that it is hard to imagine criminal record information that is not relevant to employment.
“If a job applicant has a record of violence (domestic or otherwise), drug or alcohol abuse, larceny, or weapons, potential employers should have access to that information in order to make an informed employment decision. If a candidate’s prior job performance is relevant to a hiring decision, shouldn’t his criminal background be equally relevant?” the coalition asked on their state website.
That also argue that convicted offenders unquestionably have a difficult time obtaining employment, but disclosure of a criminal record is only one of many impediments to employment. A person with a history of incarceration is going to have significant gaps in his resume, no recent employment history, a dearth of recommendations, and often low skill sets. “The District Attorneys recognize the importance of finding decent jobs for convicted offenders, but putting blinders on potential employers by denying them access to CORI information is not the solution,” they said. “The District Attorneys support re-entry planning and employer incentives to hire persons with criminal records.”