Boston Foundation report finds uneven progress on CORI Reform Implementation

New report, panel note “Continuing Challenge of CORI Reform” includes need for resources, education about reform measures

May 23, 2012

Boston – Massachusetts’ groundbreaking 2010 law to reform the state’s criminal background information system has met with mixed success in the first phase of its implementation, according to a new report commissioned by the Boston Foundation.

The Continuing Challenge of CORI Reform: Implementing the Groundbreaking 2010 Massachusetts Law was released this morning at an Understanding Boston forum. The report, the first evaluation of the implementation of the law, was researched and written by Len Engel, Managing Associate for Policy, and Gabriella Priest and Julie Finn, Research Assistants, at the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice, which provides nonpartisan consulting, policy analysis, and research services to improve public safety in communities throughout the country. The researchers conducted focus group interviews with advocates, employers and other stakeholders in the CORI reform effort.

“The 2010 CORI Reform law is still landmark legislation, but not surprisingly, there are gaps in the law that are beginning to emerge,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of theBoston Foundation. “As new provisions of the law go into effect this month, this report highlights the need for education about the CORI system, and the need for the resources to make sure that the system reforms achieve their desired impact.”

Today’s report continues a series of examinations into the CORI system by the Boston Foundation and the Crime and Justice Institute that dates back to 2005, and provided valuable data and analysis to inform the legislative debate on CORI reform law, which was signed in July 2010 by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Among its major provisions was a reduction in the timelines for criminal convictions to appear on standard CORI checks – to 5 years for misdemeanor and 10 years for felony convictions. The new law “starts the clock” on those time periods at the time of conviction or release from incarceration, rather than at the end of all supervision related to the conviction. In addition, the reform’s “ban the box” provisions required the removal of all criminal history questions from initial employment applications in most circumstances.

Among the additional provisions going into effect this month included the launch of an online CORI system known as iCORI and implementation of provisions related to housing.

Researchers found agreement among advocates and employers that thus far, the ‘ban the box’ provision has achieved its goal of getting job applicants with CORIs into interviews with potential employers, although those interviews have not necessarily led to greater employment for applicants with a CORI. In other areas, the law’s implementation has met with uneven results. The researchers found continued confusion among individuals about their rights and responsibilities for getting their CORI sealed under the law, and inconsistent practices among courts particularly when it comes to the sealing of non-conviction data.

The report also illustrates concerns over the use of criminal background information by Consumer Reporting Agencies that are not held to state law and could disseminate information past state timelines, and whose databases may not be kept up to date with the state’s system.

Advocates and employers also expressed concerns about a lack of education and training available for the full implementation of the reform, both to increase the understanding of individuals about their CORI rights, and to inform and train employers on their role in the system, particularly as the new iCORI database comes online this month.

Investments in training and resource development are seen as a critical part of properly managing the use and protection of criminal history information, and an increased understanding of the rights, processes and resources available to all parties using the CORI system is a critical element for the continued success of the law.

Today’s report release was followed by a panel discussion on CORI reform implementation featuring report author Len Engel of the Criminal Justice Institute at CRJ, along with:
Mary Elizabeth Heffernan, Secretary for the Executive Office of Public Safety, Commonwealth of Massachusetts;
Rep. Byron Rushing, Assistant Majority Leader, Massachusetts House of Representatives;
Bradley MacDougall, Vice Pres. for Govt. Affairs, Associated Industries of Massachusetts; and
Pauline Quirion, Employment Law Lead Attorney, Greater Boston Legal Services

To view the Understanding Boston forum, including the panel discussion, visit

Click to download a copy of The Continuing Challenge of CORI Reform: Implementing the Groundbreaking 2010 Massachusetts Law .

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The Boston Foundation, Greater Boston’s community foundation, is one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the nation, with net assets of $850 million.  In 2011, the Foundation and its donors made almost $78 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and received gifts of $81 million. The Foundation is made up of some 850 separate charitable funds established by donors either for the general benefit of the community or for special purposes.  The Boston Foundation also serves as a major civic leader, provider of information, convener and sponsor of special initiatives designed to address the community’s and region’s most pressing challenges.  In 2012, the Boston Foundation and The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI) merged, with TPI operating as a distinct unit of the Boston Foundation.  TPI pioneered the field of strategic philanthropic advising over 20 years ago and remains a national leader today. Through its consulting services and its work to advance the broader field of strategic philanthropy TPI has influenced billions of dollars of giving worldwide. TPI’s Center for Global Philanthropy promotes international giving from the U.S. and indigenous philanthropy abroad.

For more information about the Boston Foundation and TPI, visit or call 617-338-1700.