It moves the sealing and dissemination of criminal records to 10 years for a felony and 5 years for a misdemeanor. This will allow those who have served their time to get back to being productive citizens quicker, and not pay a too-long penalty for a long ago transgression. This reduction from 15 years and 10 years also moves the starting time on the timing to immediately after someone is released from prison.
Non-convictions will no longer appear on CORI reports. This allows accused citizens to avoid penalties for crimes they weren’t convicted of.
We’ve “banned the box” that asked if someone has been convicted of a felony on written job applications, removing a HUGE psychological and actual hurdle for prospective employees.
I must note that this balanced bill also maintains strong law enforcement priorities. The expanded bill as filed contains mandatory supervision provisions, and law enforcement agencies will have expanded and immediate access to CORI records.
As we’ve worked on this bill, I’ve come to know many people whose lives have been unduly altered by relatively minor transgressions in their past. A medical student prevented from participating in a certain clerkship because of an underage alcohol possession conviction; workers who are consistently denied opportunities to even demonstrate their qualifications because of the stigma attached to the word “convicted.”
When a citizen is convicted of a crime, it shouldn’t be the end of their life. It shouldn’t mean entering an unbreakable cycle of unemployment, more crime, recidivism, re-incarceration, and so on. Too often, otherwise productive citizens are essentially told they aren’t welcome to work or live where they may want because of a distant, non-violent offense that they have already paid their due to society for.
Serious crimes deserve serious punishments from our judicial system. But once a sentence is served, we shouldn’t keep doling out punishments as a society. We are a great Commonwealth. And we are better than sentencing one of our own to a life as an unwanted.
While this isn’t the end of the road, I am heartened that after a long, hard trail traversed by so many on the legislative and advocacy side, we’ve gotten this far. This is a well-rounded bill that has brought together advocate groups from all sides. The CORI piece is being supported by everyone from Neighbor-to-Neighbor, to the District Attorneys, to business groups. I anticipate the House taking up the matter in 2010, and I urge you to contact your representatives in the House to make sure CORI reform passes when they return to session in January.
Thanks for your support!
State Senator Harriette Chandler
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