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Corruption Chronicles

State Law Aims To Protect Felons

 

To facilitate life after prison and avoid discrimination, Massachusetts is on the verge of enacting legislation that will protect convicted criminals by concealing their records from potential employers and landlords.

A handful of states have measures that shield felons who want to work and live in their boundaries after being released from prison and Massachusetts wants to join the criminal rights bandwagon by changing its existing laws. For years the state has granted employers and landlords quick access to criminal records of job applicants and prospective tenants.

This week the Massachusetts Senate approved a law that will ban that access because it discriminates against convicted felons who want a fresh start. If the state House passes the measure, employers will also be prohibited from eliminating candidates at the start of an application process because they have a criminal history and felony records will be permanently sealed five years earlier.

To further assist convicts, the state will permit them to review their criminal records at no charge, increase penalties for the deliberate misuse of such records and create a new offense for using records to “harass former convicts.” The law has the full backing of the state’s top law enforcement officials as well as Governor Deval Patrick, a former Clinton Administration official who claims employers’ access to criminal records discriminates against the convicted felon.

Massachusetts law enforcement officials say they support the effort mainly because the current criminal records system makes it difficult to former convicts to find employment and housing. Boston’s police commissioner assures that if more offenders have the opportunity to find work, less will return to their criminal ways and there will be a “decrease in the amount of victims in the Commonwealth.”


 


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