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Sheriff’s office to convene CORI forum this Saturday

Banner Staff | 12/10/2008, 3:41 a.m.

Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral will answer residents’ questions about the state’s often controversial criminal record information system at a free community workshop this Saturday afternoon.

The workshop, titled “Understanding CORI: A Practical Guide to Understanding Your Criminal Offender Record Information,” will be held at the University of Massachusetts-Boston’s Herbert Lipke Auditorium, located at 100 Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, from noon to 2 p.m. on Dec. 13.

Joined by Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Assistant General Counsel Tim Dooling, Cabral will present a slideshow offering information on what exactly a CORI is, how people can obtain copies of their CORI reports, how to challenge incorrect information that appears on the reports, the difference between sealing and expunging criminal records, and more.

The Criminal Offender Record Information, or CORI, law was enacted in 1972 to collect information about criminal offenders assembled by different parts of the criminal justice system. The record includes the history of every case in which an offender is involved, from arrest through verdict, including not-guilty findings.

Created as a way for law enforcement entities to more easily access and share information, prospective employers, state agencies and various other organizations have also gained access to CORI information, which has come to be used in the screening of individuals applying for employment and housing.

While the sheriff’s department says that ample reason still exists for non-law enforcement personnel to have access to the records — in order to protect against unknowingly hiring people with violent pasts or histories of criminal sexual misconduct, for example — it acknowledged in a statement announcing Saturday’s forum that “many employers and organizations lack the training necessary to properly comprehend the information contained in the document.”

“As a result, ex-offenders and those with CORI’s are facing increased difficulty finding employment, housing and obtaining various services,” the statement said.

Despite those difficulties, Cabral said she believes “strongly that law enforcement should have unfettered access to [CORI] information,” but noted that “anyone else using it should definitely be trained.”

Saturday’s workshop will include a tutorial about how to properly read a CORI and understand the various disposition codes that appear on the document, as well as a question-and-answer session, according to the sheriff’s department. Attendees will receive informational handouts, including resources compiled by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

Those interested in attending the event can contact Janice Welch at 617-635-1100 ext. 3155 or via e-mail at jwelch@scsdma.org, or register online at www.scsdma.org.