GLAD submitted a letter to the Massachusetts Public Access to Court Records Committee expressing concerns about a proposed new rule, Trial Court Rule XIV, regarding expanded internet access to criminal case records.
The letter expresses concern that expanding internet access to records in criminal cases conflicts both with laws on the sealing of records, as well as with the spirit of Massachusetts' reformed CORI laws - and that such broad access is likely to hurt people who need jobs the most.
The letter, authored by Legal Director Gary Buseck, goes on to say:
"We are also aware of how the criminal justice system negatively and wrongly impacted gay men for many years. Now, and historically, the racial disparities in our criminal justice system raise serious concerns about harms to people in communities of color as a result of internet access to records.
Lastly, we are concerned about errors in court records and how those unintentional errors become effectively compounded by broad dissemination by individuals and the criminal background checking industry. And, of course, both with and without errors, there is the danger of criminal use of court records to harass, bully and otherwise harm individuals who have reason to believe that their privacy should be protected in such matters."
GLAD was a member of the coaltion that successfully worked to reform Massachusetts CORI laws in 2010.
Phone Bank to Support CORI Reform
Last fall, the Massachusetts senate passed a comprehensive reform bill, aimed at increasing supervision of serious offenders while reducing employment barriers for those with old or dismissed charges. The house version of the bill is currently stalled in the Judiciary Committee, where Representative O’Flaherty is chair.
Proposed reforms would allow individuals to move on from offenses after 10 years, as opposed to the current 15-year wait. Charges of serious violence and sex-offenses, however, would be made more open to employers and housing agents.
At the end of 2008, Representative O’Flaherty took initial steps by favorably reporting a crime bill from his committee. But with 4 days remaining in the legislative calendar, the bill expired without a vote. In the 2009-10 session, action from the Judiciary Committee is pending while Speaker of the House DeLeo has affirmed that CORI would be addressed.
With consensus growing on the issue, statewide law enforcement groups including Massachusetts Sheriffs Association and the Massachusetts Major City Police Chiefs Association have added their support for the core reform goals.