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Council targets criminal record system

Boston would stop doing business with vendors that have a policy against hiring anyone with a criminal record, under a proposal the City Council took under consideration yesterday.

The proposed ordinance, co-sponsored by eight of the 13 councilors, was one of three moves the council made yesterday to show its concerns about the state's Criminal Offender Record Information Statute, the 1973 law establishing a criminal history recordkeeping system that employers often consult in hiring decisions.

Critics on the council said that the CORI system lacks safeguards to protect against mistaken identity and that errors can be difficult to delete. They also said that the system unfairly includes records of all criminal cases, regardless of their outcome and that convictions haunt people long after they may have mended their ways.

''What has been going on certainly cannot be described as fair," said Councilor at Large Stephen J. Murphy.

Councilors unanimously passed a resolution urging the governor and Legislature to reform the CORI system. The Legislature has more than 50 bills pending on the subject, Murphy said. Councilors also said they would hold a hearing on hiring practices of a dozen of the city's largest nonprofit corporations.

A proposed ordinance would require all businesses that contract with the city to submit sworn statements describing how they use criminal background checks. Under the proposal, the city would stop contracting with any vendor that refuses to hire any applicant with any form of a criminal record, regardless of the job or its relevance to the crime.

Councilor Chuck Turner, a co-sponsor, said the ordinance would allow employers to reject former offenders for valid reasons but would make ''sure that we as the city government are operating in a way to strengthen the position of people who are coming out of prison and attempting to move forward with their lives."

Mayor Thomas M. Menino said that he supported the concept, but that he might back other methods of spurring businesses to hire former offenders, such as tax credits.

The council sent the ordinance to a committee for further review.

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