BOSTON – City Councilors Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty filed a hearing order at this week’s Council meeting to discuss how criminal offender record information (CORI) affects employment, housing, and other opportunities. Criminal records often harm access to resources and opportunities for those with prior convictions. Despite progress made on CORI reform in recent years, there is still room for improvement. This hearing intends to discuss how CORI impacts a person’s ability in seeking employment and other resources, the effectiveness of existing CORI reforms, and how we can further expand opportunities for people with CORI. This is a refiled hearing order from last year, and a hearing was held last August.

The negative effects of criminal conviction are magnified for our communities of color, who not only face higher conviction rates than whites, but tend to fare worse, at baseline, on employment outcomes and related measures of wellbeing. Having a criminal record often impedes access for past offenders for employment, housing, and other opportunities, and there are CORI reforms at the state level that attempt to expand opportunities for those with CORI. In 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) Reform into law, which barred employers from asking early-stage applicants questions about their criminal history (known as “ban the box”), and in 2018, the Massachusetts legislature expanded the 2010 CORI Reform law, reducing the period for required disclosure of misdemeanor convictions from five years to three years, among others.

However, despite these reforms, research shows that that banning the box still often failed to reduce employer discrimination related to criminal records, and that there should also be focus on alternative measures to improve reentry prospects for former convicts and policies that decrease the likelihood of conviction in the first place.

“As a former probation officer, I witnessed firsthand the impact that CORI can have on a person’s ability to access opportunities that would help put them on the right path,” said Councilor Flynn. “People with records are often unable to obtain employment, housing, or other essential resources, preventing them from fully reentering society. In our discussion about racial equity and reforms to the criminal justice system, we should also be talking about how we can ensure that people with records are given a fair chance in getting jobs and other opportunities. I look forward to working with advocates and my colleagues on this important issue.”

“I have seen first hand how CORIs impede a person’s attempt to fully participate in their communities and ultimately avoid recidivism, which is why I’ve made CORI reform a priority throughout my time on the Council”, said Councilor Flaherty. “During my time as Council president, I created a special committee on CORI reform and have since continued my efforts and advocacy by connecting people to employers and opportunities that are CORI friendly, such as Operation Exit. As we have broader discussions about the need for structural change in our Commonwealth and City, reforming the CORI system is one of many systems that needs to be urgently reformed to ensure that people have fair and equal access to opportunity.”

For more information, please contact Councilor Flynn’s office at 617-635-3203 and  [email protected] or Councilor Flaherty’s office at 617-635-4205 and [email protected].

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