Criminal Record (CORI) Reform Press Conference and Lobby Day Draws Hundreds to State House Today
Boston – Over 300 people filled the Grand Staircase at the State House and spilled into the halls today as several state and local officials urged reform of the criminal record (CORI) system. The Commonwealth CORI Coalition (CCC), a statewide alliance of over 60 community organizations, labor unions and faith-based groups, organized the press conference and lobby day to highlight the fiscal and broader economic impacts of our state’s broken CORI system. The event was sponsored by Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Liz Malia.
Mayor Thomas Menino said, “Let’s do CORI reform this session. Let’s get it done now,” adding, “I just put a young man to work who spent 15 years in jail.”
Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral stated, “The costs of incarceration are unsustainable now and continue to increase. When Criminal Offender Record Information is used inappropriately to bar access to employment, housing or higher education, people resort to whatever means are available in order to survive. Recidivism goes up, public safety suffers and the costs of corrections increase. We know what the problems are; let’s fix them.”
The current CORI system is broken and needs to be updated to reflect changes in its use. Once used exclusively by law enforcement, CORI reports are now widely available to employers, landlords, and many others making decisions on hiring, housing, student loans, and more. The greatly expanded use of CORI and the diverse circumstances that can lead to an individual having a CORI make it impossible for many qualified job seekers to obtain employment. Unemployment and underemployment lead to financial hardship for people who have already paid their debts to society, and inevitably result in higher recidivism and increased costs for the state.
In the midst of the current fiscal and economic crisis, the Commonwealth cannot afford an outdated system that keeps motivated residents from getting and keeping jobs, increases unemployment and reliance on public assistance, and decreases workforce productivity and tax revenue. We can no longer afford to ignore the harmful effects of the broken CORI system on families, communities, and the economic wellbeing of the Commonwealth as a whole.
CORI can affect anyone, from every walk of life. For example, Valerie Tecci, a suburban housewife from Reading and a member of the Coalition for Social Justice, describes how she got a CORI: “I grew up in an era where neighbors welcomed each other. So when a new neighbor moved in, I thought it would be nice to bring him a welcome gift of homemade chicken soup. When he was not home, I made the mistake of entering his open apartment and leaving the soup on his kitchen counter. For this I was charged with breaking and entering. Now, as a 52 year old woman, I am faced with a CORI which will be a major obstacle to employment for the rest of my working life.”