Second Wave of CORI Reforms Takes Effect May 4

The second phase of the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform is set to go into effect on May 4th – the first phase took effect on November 4, 2010.  In advance of the second phase’s implementation, Issue Spot is providing a quick backgrounder on the new law and an overview of the changes you should expect.

As you may know, CORI records are any record or data compiled by a Massachusetts criminal justice agency about an individual relating to a criminal charge, arrest, pre-trial hearing, other judicial proceeding, sentencing, incarceration, rehabilitation or release (it does not include juvenile criminal history, except for youthful offender charges).  CORI records are managed by the Department of Criminal Justice Information Systems (DCJIS) which provides a system for sharing information between the Massachusetts criminal justice and law enforcement community.

In 2007, the Boston Bar Association released a Statement of Principles on CORI (alluded to in our 2009 testimony) identifying four areas needing immediate reforms: the accuracy of CORI records; clarification as to who has access to CORI records; sealing of CORI records; and CORI matters unique to juveniles.  The BBA worked closely with lawmakers and other advocates to pass legislation that would improve the accuracy, access and sealing of CORI records.  Our collective efforts were rewarded in August 2010 when Governor Patrick signed the CORI reform bill into law.

Phase 1

Since November 2010, employers have not been able to ask prospective applicants to check off boxes on employment applications that reveal information about their criminal history.  Known as the “ban the box” provision, it forces employers to judge employment applications on the merits on initial application forms.  There are important exceptions to this, including employment where federal or state law disqualifies applicants with a conviction of certain types of criminal offenses.

Employers can only consider criminal history later in the hiring process.  This gives all applicants an opportunity to make it through a preliminary screening process and increases the odds of being hired.  Ex-offenders who have steady, gainful employment are less likely to recidivate, which lowers dependence on valuable state resources and increases public safety.

Phase 2

On May 4th several other reforms will take effect.  A few key terms to understand with regard to the CORI reforms include:

  • Standard Access – access to information on any criminal charges pending as of the date of the request; felony or misdemeanor convictions; convictions that have not been sealed; and any murder, manslaughter, and sex offenses.
  • Required Access – employers who must comply with statutory, regulatory, or accreditation requirements regarding employees’ criminal records; and employers under federal or state law authorizing or requiring them to conduct CORI checks such as schools, camps, day care centers, and nursing homes.
  • Open CORI – information including misdemeanor conviction with one year of conviction or release from incarceration; felony convictions within two years of conviction or release from incarceration; all felony convictions punishable by five or more years of incarceration; and all murder, manslaughter and sex offense convictions.

The major reforms set to take effect on May 4thinclude:

  • All employers and landlords will have Standard Access to CORI
  • The public will have Limited Access to Open CORI
  • Certain employers will have Required CORI Access
    • Hospitals and banks
    • Schools and day care centers
    • Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
  • iCori
    • A pay-for, secure, web-based system from the DCJIS.
    • To receive CORI access, landlords and employers will be required to register annually for an iCORI account.
    • Individuals will be able to use iCORI to request their own personal CORI’s from DCJIS.
    • The public will be able to use iCORI to request Open CORI from DCJIS.
  • Sealing Conviction changes
    • Misdemeanors will be sealed 5 years after conclusion of sentence and/or supervision.
    • Felonies will be sealed 10 years after conclusion of sentence and/or supervision.
    • Sealing is administrative – no court appearance necessary.
    • Restraining order violation convictions treated as felonies.
    • Sex offenses fall into their own category.

For more detailed information, check out DCJIS’ website or fact sheet.

– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association
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