Boston Herald Op-Ed: The CORI Problem

The Boston Herald published an Op-Ed titled “CORI’s Been Corrupted” written by Dr. Bruce Bender of Home Instead Senior Care, based in Northborough, MA.

The way CORI is administered has changed over the years and Dr. Bender argues that it has put vulnerable people at risk.  See Dr. Bender’s Op-Ed below.

Without these changes to the way Massachusetts applies the CORI law, the state is putting some of its most vulnerable citizens at risk.

Although the CORI law has not changed, the way it is administered has. Over the past decade, the board and various state agencies have imposed changes that put vulnerable people at risk.

Organizations that rely on the Criminal Offender Records Information (CORI) reports they get on volunteers or job candidates are getting something they didn’t expect: A false sense of security.

The CORI law, creating the Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB), passed in 1972 and was intended to improve an unreliable system for obtaining public information and to provide access to those deemed to need it. Schools, youth organizations and specified employers working with vulnerable populations could get timely and accurate information about a volunteer or job candidate.

Although the CORI law has not changed, the way it is administered has. Over the past decade, the board and various state agencies have imposed changes that put vulnerable people at risk. We do not get “all the information available” as required by the law.

Our company provides in-home senior care. We get a CORI, six references, proof of car insurance, etc. In 2006 the police arrested an employee at a client’s home for stealing and using the client’s credit cards. The CORI report stated there was no criminal record for the caregiver. After the arrest, the police told us she had been dismissed from two previous jobs for theft. The record was under a different name, one she had not provided us. This is not unique.

But the CHSB only checks first name, last name and date of birth – not known aliases, maiden names or Social Security number. If an individual got married last month and we submitted her current name, the CORI report would check only under her current name. If there is more than one person with the same name and date of birth, the CHSB checks only one.

The Patrick administration has eviscerated CORI by executive order. Employers are now told they cannot initiate a CORI check until the applicant is considered otherwise acceptable and they cannot use the CORI check as the sole criterion for rejection. Proposed legislation would make it illegal for employers to violate these edicts with penalties of up to one year in jail as well as fines as high as $50,000 if the offense is related to an adult record.

This is all being done in the guise of helping ex-convicts get jobs. There is no evidence that CORI keeps convicts from doing so. The recidivism rate in Massachusetts is no higher than anywhere else. Two-thirds of convicts will be rearrested within three years (with an average of 17 arrests over their careers, according to the Justice Department). Yet employers cannot use this information while hiring employees to take care of seniors?

Every fall, reporting delays of several weeks occur. Today we have a dozen people who need jobs that we cannot fill because we cannot get the legally required report.

To protect Massachusetts’ rapidly expanding population of seniors living in their homes, the state must comply with CORI:

  • We need complete criminal records of caregivers including arrests and dismissals.
  • Reports should be available within two working days. People can’t wait six weeks to get a job.
  • Do not restrict access to publicly available information through other channels.
  • Develop and maintain a current and accurate CORI database.
  • The newly implemented regulations and proposed legislation must be altered to comply with the clear purpose of the CORI law and the obvious necessity for it.

Without these changes to the way Massachusetts applies the CORI law, the state is putting some of its most vulnerable citizens at risk.

One positive piece of news related to CORI was reported in the Alliance’s Update newsletter. Processing delays took a step in the right direction recently when the Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB) reported that, as of September 1, processing times are down to one or two business days. A poll of Alliance members confirms that CORI requests have been returned in that time. Agencies formerly reported delays of up to two or three weeks, but the Alliance learned during a conference call with Health and Human Services that CHSB reallocated staff and authorized overtime in order to deal with the processing backlog. As Dr. Bender points out in his Op-Ed, however, flaws in CORI remain.

The Alliance is continuing to advocate on and monitor the situation, but anyone can check on up-to-date CORI processing times, according to CHSB, by clicking here.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

One Response to Boston Herald Op-Ed: The CORI Problem

  1. […] (MA) RegisterHCA: “Boston Herald Op-Ed: The CORI Problem” (Oct. 2, […]

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