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Gov seeks to reform CORI policy

BOSTON – Gov. Deval Patrick unveiled a criminal justice initiative Friday to enhance employment opportunities for rehabilitated individuals with criminal records.The initiative is centered on reforming the existing Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) policy to stress the importance of successful reintegration to society of ex-offenders.Patrick said that CORI was never intended to turn every offense into a life sentence and that the new initiative would help to reduce recidivism rates.”These reforms require decision makers to make an individual determination about whether an applicant is rehabilitated, rather than excluding ex-offenders categorically,” he said. “If we want to reduce crime and help people re-integrate successfully, this is a smarter approach.”Patrick also issued an executive order to ensure that the information in criminal records is accurate and understandable so that the best information is made available to assist in the decision making process.According to Patrick, approximately 20,000 inmates return home from incarceration each year without proper guidance and support for access to employment and housing opportunities.Due to a lack of support, 49 percent of offenders return to their old criminal habits after one year.CORI reform would also help to save taxpayers millions of dollars a year by reducing prison costs, reducing the cost of criminal behavior and in turn enhancing public safety.Estimates based on effective re-entry programs in the state suggest that the cost for the last year of incarceration and the first year of release can be cut by two-thirds with more efficient program services.Currently, incarcerating a person costs approximately $43,000 a year.Under provisions of the executive order and legislation, fairer state employment practices will be required, which would mean establishing a policy that a criminal background check can only occur once an applicant has been deemed otherwise qualified for a position and the contents of a criminal record are relevant to the duties of the job.Enhancing law enforcement access to sealed records, ensuring accuracy of CORI information, increasing public education of CORI rights and uses, and focusing on human services, post release training, changing timeframes for sealing of records, penalties for the abuse of CORI records, and access to juvenile records would also be focused upon in the initiative.Paul S. Grogan, president and CEO of the Boston Foundation applauded Patrick for balancing the imperatives of public safety and justice for the needs of the economy.”The governor is updating CORI policy in measured and practical ways that advance reform,” he said. “In today’s economy, we need all hands on deck and must create a climate in which people with criminal records who are qualified and rehabilitated can rejoin the workforce.”

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