LeftTurn piece on CORI reform

12/03/2010 § 2 Comments

Breaking Barriers to Employment: Criminal Record Reforms in Massachusetts

December 1, 2010

By Aaron Tanaka

This summer, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a landmark law reforming the state’s criminal background check system. Aimed at improving acc ess to jobs, housing and other vital services for residents with arrest records, overhauling the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) has been a target for Massachusetts community activists for over a decade. The successful passage of CORI reform marked a notable break from War on Drugs crime policies that have driven the rapid expansion of police and prisons since the early 1970s. Massachusetts’ precedent-setting laws frontline a growing national movement to reverse the systemic economic barriers faced by formerly convicted people.

While CORI reform gains attention as a model national policy, a deeper story accounts for a dogged grassroots coalition that willed these changes into law. Within Massachusetts’ advocacy sector, the CORI reform campaign has long been heralded as an authentic community- based effort where ex-prisoners, those with court records and the chronically unemployed were at the center of the strategy and action. After a decade of protest and six years of legislative campaigning, the CORI reform victory affirms the power and potential of our communities to reshape the policies that structure our lives.

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Ban the Box starting in MA!

10/19/2010 § Leave a comment

a central plank of CORI reform was to “ban the box” – starting nov 4, MA becomes the 2nd state in the country (after hawaii) to remove the criminal record question from initial job applications for both public and private employers. a friend was at a job fair, and saw that TJX had a specific application just for MA. so, check out the before and after. pretty dope!!

CORI reform passes!!

08/04/2010 § Leave a comment

we passed CORI reform last saturday night!  despite having bills passed through both chambers, it ended up being a nail biter until the end.  final enactment votes took place between 10-11pm, with only 1 hour left in the 09-10 legislative session.

i guess im still in shock.  after 5 years of dogged organizing, im just impossibly grateful that we pulled it off.  its particularly real to celebrate this with folks who ive been working with since the start of BWA.  our people faced CORI discrimination and volunteered for years to fight for something that people told us was impossible.  well in 2 days, we’ll be with governor patrick as he signs the bill into law 2 blocks from our office in grove hall.

ill look forward to spreading the word about our policy changes.  massachusetts is now the first state in the country to “ban the box” ie removing the criminal history question from initial job applications.  we helped pioneer this policy at the municipal level in 2005 and got it for all public state jobs in 2008 through executive order.  in the meantime, dozens of cities including san francisco, chicago, st paul / minneapolis, dallas have followed suit.  in the last year, minnesota and new mexico also banned the box for state public job applications.  but as with many model laws, MA pushed it a step further again, expanding the policy to all public and private employers across the state.  excitingly, we were the ones pushing Massachusetts.

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passing CORI reform

05/29/2010 § 4 Comments

we passed CORI reform this past wednesday.  one of the more exhilarating moments of my organizing life.  we’re almost at the completion of a 5 year campaign and achieving one of the original goals from the formation of my organization.  im proud of the work we’ve done, and the relief we will offer to the hundreds of thousands suffering from what michelle alexander calls “the new jim crow.”

justice generation!

internal BWA messaging:

HOUSE CORI VOTE DEBRIEF AND NEXT STEPS

*What Happened and What’s Next?*

CORI Reform was passed in the House late Wednesday with a vote of 139 to 17!  The victory was a critical milestone, bringing us a major step closer to the adoption of CORI reform into law.

The vote now places CORI reform into Conference Committee, where a small group of State Reps and Senators will be responsible for reconciling the House and Senate versions to produce a final bill. « Read the rest of this entry »

CORI Reform Now!

05/15/2010 § Leave a comment

[foto by ernesto arroyo]

CORI reform rally & lobby day, may 6

the new jim crow

04/14/2010 § 5 Comments

michelle alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness.

as a prison abolitionist, the crisis of racialized policing and mass incarceration is probably the issue that strikes most deeply at my emotional-political core.  since starting this blog, i haven’t been able to muster the energy to write on the topic.  probably because it feels too much like work and also because the task of succinct articulation is so overwhelming.  but ive decided to broach it by sharing alexander’s provocative thesis:  mass incarceration = modern day jim crow, and let her do the talking.

ive gathered some “prison stats 101” to supplement, and for future reference on the subject:

prison growth: between 1970 and the present, the US prison population has grown from about 250,000 state and federal prisoners to over 2.3 million prisoners.

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