Lawyers and law students in Massachusetts who volunteer for CORI-sealing projects can have a significant impact. See some recent initiatives and ways that legal experts and students can become involved by continuing to read.

As almost one in three persons in America can confirm, having a criminal record can negatively affect your life's quality. Getting a decent job, a place to live, money for school, and other things is more difficult. even in cases where the offence you committed was a misdemeanour. even if your 30-year-old record. Even in the event that the case was dropped or you received acquittal.

Many people in Massachusetts who possess Criminal Offender Record Information, or CORI, are able to "seal" their records in order to lessen the impact, which can lead to opportunities for employment, housing, and other possibilities.

But it's frequently easier said than done to finish the CORI-sealing procedure. Many people are unaware that CORI sealing is an option, and many more are unable to pay for legal representation during the procedure.   

The Massachusetts legal community can help with that. Many law students and professionals are willing to assist people in sealing their CORIs and moving on to a better life through volunteer groups at law schools and pro bono activities at firms.

These unpaid efforts culminated recently when Rosie's Place, a Boston shelter for low-income and homeless women, opened its first CORI Sealing Clinic with assistance from New England Law | Boston, the nonprofit Lawyers Clearinghouse, and Ropes & Grey.

The New England Law team, which included Dara Yaffe, an alumnus, students Kaneesha Dukes and Aidan Stuart, professor David Siegel, director of the school's Centre for Law and Social Responsibility, and faculty supervisor for its CORI Initiative, assisted in training the Ropes in early September 2017. & Grey solicitors who will be continuing their voluntary work at Rosie's Place.

It's a potent illustration of the practical benefits of volunteering during and after law school, and it represents the most recent development in providing legal assistance to people who most need it.

The life-altering impact of a criminal record

Every criminal charge that a person has ever faced is tracked by a CORI, dating back decades and includes instances that were dropped or resulted in an acquittal. These recordings have the power to haunt you.

After a person has served their time in prison or finished their probation, their criminal record remains, according to Yaffe. Many of our clients' records prevent them from accessing housing, employment prospects, and the upward mobility that comes with pursuing higher education and career training.

It is possible that a person with a dismissed criminal is unaware of the extent to which their CORI is a hindrance. According to Stuart, many are unaware that their record isn't necessarily erased by their dismissal.They then go to apply and are turned down for a job that has the potential to improve their life. Or they're attempting to provide their children with a place to reside, which could alter the course of the children's life [yet they are turned down for it]

Certain protections are provided by federal civil rights laws, such as the ban on hiring practises based on criminal histories. However, approximately 70% of companies still have the legal right to perform criminal background checks. These companies might not understand how to interpret a CORI, which can be very complicated and separates convictions from non-convictions. With a litany of non-convictions, this can be harmful to a client who, although innocent in court, is nonetheless perceived as a criminal by the general public, according to Yaffe.

According to Stuart, many of our clients face prejudice or limitations in society even if they haven't actually done anything wrong. They do have a record, although the majority don't have convictions. In my opinion, the system shouldn't penalise Those who have completed their sentences and returned to society are merely attempting to move on with their lives. Usually, a lengthy history of non-convictions is preventing them from accomplishing that.

What is CORI sealing all about?

A sealed CORI is no longer visible in most background checks or as a public record. There are, however, some exceptions. For instance, the police, courts, and organisations that evaluate prospective creche workers or foster/adoptive parents have access to sealed record data. Furthermore, in Massachusetts, certain convictions—such as those for resisting arrest, perjury, and intimidating witnesses—can never be sealed.

Depending on the record, a person with qualifying offences may apply to have their CORI sealed in one of two ways:

Sealing through the Commissioner of Probation: If there are no convictions between, there is a five-year waiting time for misdemeanours and a ten-year waiting period for felonies. The person only needs to mail in their Petition to Seal; going to court is not necessary.

sealing in court, without any waiting time. In addition, the person must file a Petition to Seal, which needs to be done in the court where the offence was reported. (Courts handle CORI sealing differently.) Additionally, the person needs to submit an affidavit outlining their case for sealing the CORI.

People are guided through these procedures by law student volunteers, such as those involved in the New England Law CORI Initiative, and advocates, such as those from Rosie's Place, who assist clients with everything from preparing petitions and affidavits to explaining what happens in court so they feel more at ease and ready when they appear.

However, these people still have to overcome many challenges, such as travelling to court in person to finish the sealing procedure. According to the 2015 report from the CORI Initiative, "those who had not yet attended court cited transportation difficulties, money problems, personal issues, and the discomfort of going into court without a lawyer/advocate."

Advocates for criminal justice also propose more CORI reforms, such as cutting the five- and 10-year waiting periods to three and seven years, respectively; rejecting some juvenile court rulings and allowing convictions for resisting arrest to be sealed.

The Rosie’s Place CORI Sealing Clinic

According to Emily Lau, Legal Programme Manager at Rosie's Place, CORIs are a major obstacle for many impoverished and homeless women who are attempting to improve their lives. Despite the fact that CORI laws were updated in 2012, a lot of women are unaware of these modifications or their ability to seal their CORI. Lau pointed out that a lot of women get anxious when they think about going to court.

In a welcoming and nonjudgmental setting, the CORI Sealing Clinic seeks to assist Rosie's Place visitors in understanding their rights and reviewing their CORI. We want to give women the tools and resources they need to go past this obstacle and take a step towards reducing their poverty if they are able to seal their CORI, according to Lau. Along with Women are able to tell the court about their experiences and how their CORI is preventing them from moving forward with the help of an attorney.

Ropes & Grey solicitors will visit Rosie's Place at the end of each month to assist visitors with the procedure for women who could be qualified to seal their CORI. The Ropes & Grey solicitors will have mentors in the form of student volunteers from the New England Law CORI Initiative. (Lawyers Clearing House will further help at Rosie's Place during the CORI Sealing Clinic.)

The New England Law team covered the substantive law of CORI sealing (including Commonwealth v. Pon) at the Ropes & Grey CORI-sealing training. They also covered the basics of reading a CORI, what information attorneys should look for, how to properly fill out a petition, how to communicate with clients, and what to expect during the process. the method. Representatives from Rosie's Place also talked on how to recognise the unique requirements of trauma survivors, what worries they might have, and how to take care of themselves.

Thirty transactional lawyers who had no prior experience with the CORI process were expertly trained by Professor Siegel and his team. Rosalyn Garbose Nasdor, Director of Pro Bono Legal Services at Ropes & Grey, said, He put them at ease and gave them just what they needed to tackle the legal issues and the dynamics of counselling homeless clients in a bind. Ropes & Grey attorneys have used this expertise to successfully complete two clinics, assisting 20 clients with their records, in just two months.

CORI sealing: a unique volunteering opportunity for law students

Through the CORI Initiative at New England Law, student volunteers have assisted qualified clients in sealing their CORI since 2011. At no cost to the client, this could entail guiding them through the procedure, figuring out their eligibility, drafting petitions and affidavits, and assisting them with form completion.

Stuart and Dukes, both New England Law students, are currently involved in volunteer work with the CORI Initiative, of which Stuart is one of two co-managers. Both held summer fellowships with Greater Boston Legal Services, where they worked on CORI-related projects. Yaffe has conducted multiple CORI-sealing workshops across the state. While attending New England Law, she also worked as the CORI Initiative's student manager.

Stuart claimed that he is already a more considerate legal practitioner as a result of his voluntary work with CORI. because he is more conscious of the consequences that a criminal record has in the real world. Even the act of detaining someone has the power to drastically alter their future. said he. A lot of it may come down to chance as to which judge will hear the case in the end.

As of October 2017, the CORI Initiative, which operates under the auspices of the New England Law Centre for Law and Social Responsibility, has assisted over 300 people and has grown steadily since its inception. Many of those customers have come via Greater Boston Legal Services, a longstanding partner of the CORI Initiative that started working with it in 2011, Rosie's Place, which collaborated with the initiative in January 2013, and Boston Career Link, a career development centre.

While creating case materials and visiting with clients outside of class, all CORI Initiative students are volunteers. The CORI Initiative was once a 10-person endeavour. More than forty students volunteer now. (Stuart credits Xena Robinson, the other student co-manager of the organisation, as a key factor in that expansion.) Stuart remarked, I hope they keep coming because we could definitely use their help. For clients who have not had a good experience with the criminal justice system overall the CORI Initiative provides a space to engage on meaningful projects.

Yaffe sought practical legal experience, so during her first semester at New England Law, she joined the CORI Initiative. She located it, too. I was already reading a CORI and writing the petitions and affidavit for a client by the second week of the Initiative, the woman claimed. The procedure was made very clear by an early speech given by one of the student managers. Sealing a record could help a client get access to higher education, she said, adding that it was an opportunity to help our clients have a second shot. Since I was a teacher before attending law school, I could strongly relate to this remark, and I still do. I understand how crucial it is to ensure that young individuals either they are not drawn into the school-to-prison pipeline, or if they are, they possess the motivation and support to escape it. That's when I realised I belonged in the CORI Initiative.

Getting involved as a law student

It is suggested for law students who are interested in CORI sealing and other voluntary work to become involved as soon as possible. It's a fantastic chance for 1Ls to gain real-world experience in interviewing clients and writing affidavitssaid Yaffe. The job enhances the lawyering skills of 2Ls and 3Ls and could result in pro bono hours, which are necessary to take the New York bar exam.