Massachusetts’ Criminal Offender Record Information laws should expect an overhaul in 2008. Among Governor Deval Patrick’s initiatives is a push to assist individuals with criminal records with finding jobs and preventing workplace discrimination. The Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) has been particularly outspoken about the need for CORI reform. Current MBA President, David White, discussed the hidden job discrimination with which this group must contend in his President’s Message entitled, Criminal reforms are long overdue.
Under Governor Deval Patrick’s recent proposed Executive Order (below), the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination will be responsible for adopting regulations “that prohibit an employer from rejecting or discharging a qualified person with a criminal record because of the mere existence of the record.”
EXECUTIVE ORDER NO.___________
ESTABLISHING POLICIES FOR THE REINTEGRATION
OF PERSONS WITH CRIMINAL HISTORIES
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth maintains over 2.8 million criminal records, which are difficult to read, and many of which contain inaccuracies, but are, nonetheless, routinely disseminated to non-criminal justice agencies;
WHEREAS, the number of non-criminal justice agencies requesting criminal record information has grown exponentially over the last decade such that in 2006 alone, 1.4 million requests were processed, and the extent of the information received by these agencies also has expanded substantially;
WHEREAS, thousands of people processed through the criminal justice system, including those found not guilty or whose charges were not prosecuted, are unable, due to the dissemination of their records, to secure employment, job training or otherwise lead productive, taxpaying and law-abiding lives;
WHEREAS, the Commonwealth has a compelling interest in reducing its recidivism and unemployment rates, currently at 43 and 4.4 percent respectively;
WHEREAS, the criminal justice system heavily impacts minority communities resulting in higher joblessness and unemployment rates that in turn exacerbate poverty (ranging from 6 to 52 percent in Boston) and reinforce cycles of criminal system involvement;
WHEREAS, the Governor’s Taskforce on CORI Reform determined that there is widespread agreement among various stakeholders, including employers, Bar Associations and social service providers, to diminish barriers impeding successful reintegration of persons with criminal histories into mainstream living;
NOW THEREFORE, I, Deval Patrick, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Supreme Executive Magistrate, and Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, do hereby order as follows:
Section 1. Declaration of Policy.
It is the policy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to promote the full participation of law-abiding residents, who have criminal offender record information (CORI), in the labor market and in other spheres of mainstream living.
Section 3. Directives to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.
3.1 The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, (MCAD) shall adopt regulations that prohibit an employer from rejecting or discharging a qualified person with a criminal record because of the mere existence of the record.
3.2 The MCAD shall adopt regulations that prohibit the use of an erroneously issued CORI in making a hiring, promotion or firing decision.
3.3 The MCAD shall adopt regulations that require an employer making an adverse decision based on a CORI to insure that one or more convictions on the report substantially relate to a position to be filled and that the decision is objectively reasonable under all the circumstances. The MCAD regulations also shall adopt the standards set forth at the Criminal History Systems Board regulation, 803 CMR 6.11, and require that employers follow the standards.
3.4 The MCAD shall adopt regulations that afford any aggrieved person with a CORI the right to avail him or herself of the agency’s complaint mechanism.
3.5 The MCAD, under its plenary powers to combat discrimination, shall ensure, through periodic investigation and monitoring, that criminal histories are not been used as proxy for unlawful race or national origin discrimination.