Bait and switch at the Boston Globe

This morning’s Boston Globe has a rather heart-tugging story about some people who oppose the current Criminal Offender Record Information system (CORI). Under the headline “Foes of arrest notification gather,” they talk about how the database is leaving an indelible black mark on people’s records, tainting them in the eyes of potential employers, landlords, and the like.

While reading the actual story, though, something struck me as odd.

The story starts out with a quote from Darrin Howell, who was three years ago for domestic violence and firearms charges. He says that he is routinely denied jobs because of that incident.

But as I read on, it became clear that Mr. Howell wasn’t just arrested. He “spent a year in jail for those offenses.”

So, intrigued by this apparent discrepancy, I decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth.

According to the official web site of the Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library:

(7/22/03) According to Massachusetts Legal Services’ booklet, The CORI Reader, there are legislatively authorized agencies that can access criminal records, but for the general public the following applies:

Crime victims. victim family members or witnesses to a crime, may “see the CORI with respect to a crime of a person charged with that crime, upon individual certification by the CHSB. Further, criminal justice agencies may disclose to such people other information, including evaluative information, if ‘reasonably necessary for the security and well-being of such persons.'”

Any member of the general public may access CORI “when the ‘CORI curtain is up.’ This is complicated. The general public does not have access to most CORI, most of the time. For them, the ‘CORI curtain’ is down. But there are exceptions, when the curtain is up as to a particular COR! subject, and then the general public may get the CORI of that person. The curtain is up in situations where the CORI subject has been either —

(a) convicted of a crime for which the maximum possible imprisonment is 5 years or more, whatever the sentence he or she actually gets (even just a fine or probation), or

(b) is convicted of any crime and sentenced to incarceration.

“In either of these situations, right at the point of conviction, the curtain stays up, and the public may see the CORI, if, at the time the request for CORI is made —

the CORI subject is serving a sentence of incarceration, or is under probation or parole supervision, or

having been convicted of a misdemeanor (a crime for which the maximum is 2- 1/2 years in a county house of correction), he or she has been released from all custody or supervision for 1 year or less time, or

having been convicted of a felony (a crime for which the maximum is more than 2-1/2 years), he or she has been released from all custody or supervision for 2 years or less time, or

having been convicted of a felony, sentenced to a state prison and having “wrapped up” in prison (either having been denied parole or returned to prison for a parole violation), he or she has been released from custody for 3 years or less time. “

So we see that while the Boston Globe says the CORI program covers “arrests,” CORI itself says it only deals with convictions. Simply being arrested isn’t enough to get on their list.

Why would the Globe make such a mistake? It could be an innocent error by a headline writer. Or it could be aimed at blurring the line between those who have been arrested, then released uncharged, and those who have been found guilty of actual crimes.

It’s certainly in character for the Glob. They like to lump together two groups that are separated by obedience to the law. They routinely call illegal aliens “immigrants,” trying to tie together those who come here legally with those who sneak in or overstay their welcome.

But the IMPORTANT thing is that there is a group of people who feel oppressed, who feel victimized, by having to face the consequences of their choice to break the laws. Since that might damage their fragile self-esteem, and we certainly can’t have THAT.

And the notion of holding people responsible for the consequences of their choices to go outside the law is just another old-fashioned, quaint concepts that needs to be tossed by the wayside.

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