CORI Reform Expected To Pass, But Criminal Trails Could Remain

BOSTON — The Massachusetts House is expected to debate and vote on a proposal to overhaul the state’s criminal records system Wednesday. It’s a bill that would change the Criminal Offender Record Information — also known as CORI laws.

The bill would bar employers from asking about criminal histories on job applications, and it would shorten the time frame that records are active. Felonies would stay for 10 years, and misdemeanors for five.

This measure does not affect sex offenders or murderers because their records are handled in a separate system.

The CORI bill is expected to pass, but that may not be the end for people with CORI problems.

A Permanent Trail

“You know, turns out because you have CORI, you couldn’t get jobs.”

– Cassandra Ben Sahih

CORI is information that follows one through the criminal justice system and beyond. Arrest records, convictions, dismissals — even not guilty verdicts. It’s essentially a permanent record.

Cassandra Ben Sahih, a mother of four who spent time in prison on drug charges, found out about CORI the hard way.

“I guess I was surprised to find out a what a CORI was cause I really didn’t know,” Sahih said.

When she left jail, Ben Sahih realized there were things she could not leave behind, as she said at a State House rally earlier this month.

“When I went to look for housing. I started receiving those rejection letters,” Sahih said. “You know, turns out because you have CORI, you couldn’t get jobs.”

Now, jobs are the key part of the proposed CORI system overhaul — because the bill limits when and how employers can access criminal records.

Reforming CORI

David White, a criminal defense attorney in Boston and a leading advocate of CORI reform, says it doesn’t make sense for offenders to be saddled with permanent criminal records that can keep them out of jobs, housing and more.

“The clergy and elected officials all standing there were all of one accord, talking about crime and reform.”

– Rep. Gloria Fox

“Statistics show that if someone has been free of any criminal activity for seven years, that person is as likely to re-offend as someone who has never offended in the first place,” White said.

White said information and how it’s used is at the heart of reforming the Massachusetts system.

“Does that criminal background really affect their qualification for the job that the person is seeking?” White asked.

Oftentimes, he said, it doesn’t. “An offense that occurred while the person was still in high school is probably something the employer does not have to worry about in terms of job performance and safety,” White continued.

In the past, the chief opponents of efforts to change CORI were some enforcement officials. But now, many are behind this bill.

Sheriffs, police chiefs and prosecutors held a news conference in support of reform at the State House.

Rep. Gloria Fox has been working on CORI since the early 1990s.

“I’m telling you, I was misty. I was misty,” Fox said, speaking of renewed CORI reform efforts. “The clergy and elected officials all standing there were all of one accord, talking about crime and reform. I mean, I’m aflutter.”

The public support of law enforcement and elected officials should help CORI reform pass.

Beyond Public Records

“The data industry is really is really good about getting the genie out of the bottle.”

– Chris Hoofnagle, privacy expert

At the end of the day, however, the Legislature can only try to control information, said privacy expert Chris Hoofnagle.

“The data industry is really good about getting the genie out of the bottle, of finding was to suck all the data out of the system,” Hoofnagle said. “And once they have it, it becomes very hard for the government to come along and say you can’t use it or you have to delete it.”

Hoofnagle, who teaches at the University of California at Berkeley Law School, said criminal records just have a way of sticking around, regardless of changes to the official criminal records system.

He said employers, landlords and anyone who uses private companies can still end up getting old, outdated and sometimes inaccurate information about criminal records.

“Those really are kind of a permanent record. And states attempt to limit their distribution haven’t been very successful,” Hoofnagle said.

But Hoofnagle says Massachusetts and other states should still try.

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  • Anne Van Nostrand

    Please, please pass CORI, then repeal the mandatory sentencing for first-time drug offenders

  • Cheryl Ahmed

    I went to the Braintree Police 3 times to request assistance because I was the only female cabbie in town and was being ganged up on, sexually harassed and bullied by the male drivers. Cabbies in Braintree are very violent and I was frightened. I didn’t know the Braintree Police were being sued for sexual harassment, and that they had retaliated against the female officers by falsely accusing them. They yelled at me and told me I was probably asking for it. Soon after, I was arrested on false charges of assault and battery, and thrown in jail. I wasn’t even allowed to talk. I was viciously persecuted by the DA (whom I had also contacted for protection) with no evidence whatsoever. There is a police surveillance camera where the incident happened, and I tried everything and everybody to get it so I could prove my innocence, but the police destroyed it to cover up that they had arrested me on false charges in order to help the other sexual harassers. Nevertheless, I was still able to prove these 2 creeps and their dirty cop friends were lying, and I was not convicted. However, I still have an arrest on my CORI and have had a hard time getting a job.
    Sexual harassment is SUPPOSED to be illegal, and so is retaliating. So is filing a false police report, but since the dirty cops have connections to all the judges and the DA, I am not allowed to prosecute them, nor sue them.
    It has been 6 years and I still have nightmares every night and frequently consider suicide. I cannot get justice and cannot clear my good name.

    • able1

      hey  cheryl
       read your story, my neice had similair situation, cabbie offered to let her pay fare by means of sexual trade friggin wack job.yes it was taken up first with the cab company to which the dipatcher first  stated that i was f-  ing drunk . i then asked to speak w/ her sup, which she was more understanding and advised me how to handle this. long story short, dispatcher suspended, not enough evdice or proof against identified cabbie.cops not helpful. may be when it happens to one of their own female family members they will be a litte bit more compassionate and less judgemental and realize there are some NOT all creepy cabbies

  • Boo Boo Binky

    Cherylstop smoking crack you Coo Coo bird.

  • Boo Boo Binky

    The Braintree Cabbies are not violent or crazy You can’t clear your name because you are in trouble all the time and always accusing everyone of false charges.

  • Marilin Mateo

    I am reading about this reform for the first time, and I am extremely excited with the idea of a CORI reform. I am sure, that the priorities in which this “Bill” is focusing on will be of great help for many people whom are looking for social and emotional development.

    After DCF acquired temporary custody of two of my nieces, I am trying on a second attempt to seal my record, which contains charges from eight years ago. This agency is using them against me and now I can not get involve in my niece lives. That hurt me a lot because I had always been there for them.

    Sometimes, things aren’t the way they seem to be. In my opinion, the only way we could get to undestand human behavior is by giving them the opportunity to demonstrate, that after all, they want to follow a positive path instead of a negative one.

    “Every one shall have a second opportunity”

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