Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation today overhauling the state’s criminal offender records information system, changes he and other proponents say will reduce recidivism and give former offenders a better chance at finding work.
“The best way to break the cycle of recidivism is to make it possible for people to get a job,” Patrick said in a statement. “This legislation brings our outdated criminal history database into the 21st century, ensures law enforcement agencies, employers, and housing providers have access to accurate and complete records in appropriate circumstances, and helps people get back to work so they can support their families.”
Under the new law, felony convictions will be available to prospective employers for 10 years and misdemeanor convictions for five years, as long as there are no subsequent offenses. Murder and sex offense convictions remain in the system permanently. In addition, the law allows nonviolent offenders serving mandatory minimum sentences to get supervision and training before being released, and it adds illegal gun possession to the crimes prosecutors can use for pretrial detention of suspects.
“This takes a responsible approach to targeted reforms that improve public safety and address the costly problems of recidivism and overcrowding,” Senate President Therese Murray said in a statement. “It also provides important new tools for employers to access the state’s criminal records system.”
“This legislation strikes a balance to reduce recidivism while remaining tough on violent offenders,” added House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “This bill will provide new opportunities to those who have paid their debt to society while maintaining a strong focus on public safety.”