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The Civic Leadership Fund and Criminal Justice Reform

How the Boston Foundation and its Partners have Reshaped the Criminal Justice Landscape in Massachusetts

The Boston Foundation’s grant making has been making a difference in the lives of Greater Boston residents for over 100 years.  

Established in 2003, the Civic Leadership Fund supports the Foundation’s work beyond grant making with a public policy agenda that broadens and sustains the impact of our work through systemic change.

CLF Justice Reform

The Foundation’s work in criminal justice reform illustrates how, working with partners and relying on solid data, our civic leadership efforts can bring about significant changes in public policy.

The Boston Foundation released its first report on criminal justice disparities and inequities in Massachusetts in 2005. Since then we’ve stayed with the issue and revisited it in over half a dozen reports—each time presenting fresh research to inform the dialogue for policy makers and the general public.

Today, there is news to celebrate.

Massachusetts now joins a growing number of states that have rolled back the inequitable and ineffective “get tough” criminal justice policies of the 80s and 90s. With the recent passage and signing of An Act Implementing the Joint Recommendations of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Review and An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform, the Commonwealth takes a major step toward smarter, fairer policies in the pursuit of true justice.

Thomas Bentley

Contact Leadership Giving Officer Thomas Bentley to learn more about the Civic Leadership Fund.

At this important milestone, the Boston Foundation and our partners are reminded that the arc of justice is long and can take a great deal of patience to bend. We are also reminded of our own Values Statement as an institution: In everything we do, we seek to broaden participation, foster collaboration and heal racial, ethnic and community division. 

Numerous individuals and organizations contributed to the passage of this landmark legislation and the Boston Foundation is proud to have partnered with many of them, especially MASSInc. We are especially grateful to the donors who made it possible for us to contribute to this important work by supporting our annual campaign for the Civic Leadership Fund. We encourage you to support our work by making a gift to the Civic Leadership Fund so that we can continue to serve as a civic hub and center for information where ideas are shared, levers for changes are identified and common agendas for the future are developed.

CORI Individual Rights and Public Access
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CORI: Balancing Individual Rights and Public Safety

As our society becomes increasingly focused on security as a key national and civic issue, we inevitably face the recurring dilemma of balancing the desire for public safety with the need to preserve individual rights. The conflict between public safety and individual rights is at the essence of the current debate around Criminal Offender Recorder Information, or CORI. 

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Rethinking Justice
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Rethinking Justice in Massachusetts Public Attitudes Toward Crimes and Punishment

A recent survey of public opinion indicates a significant difference between current state policy towards crime and punishment and what residents of Massachusetts see as an effective and appropriate strategy for handling of those convicted of crime. According to the study, residents of the Commonwealth believe a policy that places more importance on prevention and treatment would reduce recidivism rates—and would also be more prudent fiscally.

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CORI Doors of Opportunity
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CORI: Opening Doors of Opportunity

The Boston Foundation and the Crime and Justice Institute have released a report recommending changes in the way the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) is used, in order to remove unnecessary barriers to employment for men and women with criminal histories.  At the same time, the report calls for retaining the system’s ability to maintain the safety of the workplace. 

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Priorities and Public Safety
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Priorities and Public Safety: Reentry and the Rising Costs of our Corrections System

New research identifies rapidly growing state corrections costs as an economic burden at a time of budget cuts forced by the ongoing economic crisis. According to the report, the Commonwealth could ease this burden by adopting strategies proven to shrink prison populations and reduce rates of recidivism.

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Priorities and Public Safety II
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Priorities and Public Safety II: Adopting Effective Probation Practices

This report examines the current structure of corrections in Massachusetts, focusing on the vital role probation plays in protecting the public, and how other states carry out probation responsibilities. The report also incorporates the research showing the necessary elements of an effective and efficient probation system and what Massachusetts leaders should focus on as they work to restore the Probation Department as an effective and collaborative partner in the criminal justice system.

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Continuing Challenge of CORI Reform
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The Continuing Challenge of CORI Reform: Implementing the Groundbreaking 2010 Mass Law

Two years ago Governor Patrick signed into law An Act Reforming the Administrative Procedures Relative to Criminal Offender Record Information. This legislation, which was the result of years of intense education and lobbying, was intended to reform the state’s criminal offender records information system (CORI) to improve employment and housing opportunities for ex-offenders—thereby easing their re-integration into society and reducing recidivism.

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Geography of Incarceration
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The Geography of Incarceration

This report, produced by the Boston Indicators Project of the Boston Foundation in partnership with MassINC, addresses mass incarceration in the Commonwealth and its long-term impact on community development and the reintegration of former inmates into society.

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Getting Tough on Spending
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Getting Tough on Spending: An Examination of Correctional Expenditure in Massachusetts

The Boston Foundation sponsored this major MassINC report on soaring rates of spending in the Massachusetts prison system despite the fact that the inmate population has declined in recent years and very few resources are going to rehabilitation programs that could reduce recidivism rates and even mean greater savings for the system. 

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by the Civic Leadership Fund