At this month’s BBA Reentry Education Workshop at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, volunteers spoke to probationers about how to manage their Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). In Massachusetts, all criminal records and information is stored on an individual’s CORI and can be requested for viewing through the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS). Often potential landlords or employers will access one’s CORI during the housing or employment application process. Our presenters, D’Andre Fernandez (Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office) and Renay Frankel (Harvard Law School), instructed the attendees how to access their CORI, check it for potential mistakes, and search who has requested their CORI in the past. They also reviewed the criteria for CORI sealing and provided information on legal clinics that can assist with sealing.
Posts Categorized: BBA Reentry Education Program
This month, the BBA’s Reentry Education Program held a workshop at the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts for probationers looking for guidance on reinstating their driver’s license. Benjamin Richard (Law Office of Benjamin Richard) led the presentation and reviewed the basic guidelines to reinstate one’s license. In many cases, there may be unresolved child support or parking tickets that need to be paid before it’s possible to apply for reinstatement. By outlining a three-step plan to reinstate one’s license, Richard was able to help the attendees figure out their next steps and priorities. Obtaining a driver’s license is a critical step for returning citizens who may need a car or license for employment.
The next Reentry Education workshop will focus on managing one’s Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI).
If you’re interested in volunteering to lead a Reentry Education workshop, please contact Cassandra Shavney at [email protected].
From teaching over 1,500 students their Miranda Rights to instituting a Bar Exam Coaching Program, 2016 was a successful year at the BBA. For highlights and our favorite photos from the year, read on to see how you and your colleagues contributed to our public services initiatives in 2016.
Thank you for a wonderful year, we can’t wait to kickoff 2017 with you!
We’d like to thank our 2016 BBA Reentry Education Program volunteers for donating their time to educate probationers on how to navigate various civil-legal issues faced when reentering society. This year, volunteers addressed over 150 probationers on issues related to employment law, obtaining housing, reinstating a driver’s license, CORI sealing, public benefits, finances, and family law. The BBA partnered with the Court Assisted Recovery Effort (CARE) and Reentry: Empowering Successful Todays and Responsible Tomorrows (RESTART) programs of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, the CHOICE program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court, and Hope House and Coolidge House, community partners serving the probation population.
We’re thankful for our volunteers:
Michael Birch, Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP
Lizbeth Ginsburg, Greater Boston Legal Services
Julie Heinzelman, Prince Lobel Tye LLP
Anuj Khetarpal, Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General
David Lieberman, Day Pitney LLP
Brian McLaughlin, Brian McLaughlin Esq. LLC
Kavya Naini, Harvard Law School
Ryan Sakoda, Committee for Public Counsel Services
Phong Tran, Harvard Law School
Ryan Sakoda, a Liman Public Interest Fellow at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, does a lot of work with defendants in the midst of a dispute over housing. As an attorney working in the public defender’s office in Boston, he frequently works to help clients who are facing eviction or who are having a hard time finding affordable housing because of a criminal record.
That’s why he wanted to volunteer to teach a session for the BBA’s Reentry Education program. During two recent sessions, Sakoda spoke to federal probationers and CHOICE participants about their options for getting into public housing in spite of their history.
“Many people that have contact with the criminal justice system are low-income, and so a lot of them do rely on housing assistance,” Sakoda said. “In order to move on with your life, housing is really the foundation to regain some stability and get past the contact with the criminal justice system.”
Sakoda said many of those with a criminal record get discouraged and do not apply for public housing, because they have heard about the difficulties from other people in a similar position or because they have applied before and been denied. During the training, Sakoda covered an applicant’s right to appeal the decision if they are denied housing, a step that he said many people do not take.
“The truth is that there just aren’t enough public interest lawyers to fully represent all the people that need this kind of legal assistance. That’s why I feel it’s so important that the BBA and other organizations put on these informational programs,” Sakoda said.
At the BBA, one of our public service initiatives focuses on helping probationers to understand the complex world of legal and financial obligations they’ll be met with when their sentence is up. Two longtime volunteers with the BBA’s Reentry Education program, David W.S. Lieberman and Brian McLaughlin, caught up with Beyond the Billable to talk about their most recent educational sessions.
Liberman, a former PILP member and Associate at Day Pitney LLP, led a session on financial literacy and responsibility for participants of the CHOICE program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court.
CHOICE is an intensive probation supervision program in the Roxbury Division of the Boston Municipal Court. CHOICE offers young adult probationers the opportunity to pursue either educational or vocational goals as an alternative to incarceration.
Lieberman spoke on a range of topics, from including how to open a bank account, track your spending, and understand credit reports and ratings.
“It’s really important to help people understand the building blocks to achieving financial stability particularly how credit ratings are used to make decisions about things like housing and employment. These concepts are very rarely taught in school and it is vital that people understand them especially as they are trying to get their lives back on track,” Lieberman said. “I am always energized by the level of engagement during these sessions and I am grateful for the opportunity to present to the CHOICE participants.”
The session was part of the BBA’s Reentry Education Program, which aims to help probationers successfully undergo a new beginning.
Our volunteer attorneys also work with probationers in the Federal District Court’s CARE/RESTART program, and McLaughlin, a former PILP member of Brian McLaughlin, Esq. LLC, recently led a presentation on family law. He spoke to a group about navigating complex issues like child support, paternity and custody issues.
“I honestly look forward to this event every year. I always learn something from the audience that I would’ve never thought of. Each year that I do the presentation, I come away with a renewed perspective of family law,” McLaughlin said. “This year’s presentation was among the most interactive and I cannot wait to see what next year’s group brings.”
The BBA is once again holding civil legal workshops for probationers in the CARE/RESTART Program at the Federal Court and CHOICE Program at Boston Municipal Court in Roxbury. As you may remember, the PILP class created this initiative with CARE/RESTART in 2012, and last year’s PILP class expanded the program to the CHOICE Program.
Last week, Anuj Khetarpal (Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General) presented on reinstating your driver’s license to participants in the CARE/RESTART program at the Federal Court, while Michael Birch (Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP) and Julie Heinzelman (Prince Lobel Tye LLP) headed to Boston Municipal Court in Roxbury to teach participants in the CHOICE program about employment law.
Here’s why our presenters think employment law and reinstating your driver’s licenses are important topics for probationers:
Michael Birch: I think obtaining and maintaining steady, productive employment is a critical part of re-entering society. Hopefully, being educated and aware of their rights and obligations as applicants and employees will help them obtain and maintain such employment.
Anuj Khetarpal: Reinstating your driver’s license is an important topic for probationers because it helps probationers rebuild their lives. It is a helpful, and sometimes necessary, step in order for the probationers to get a job, support themselves and their families, and to build lives for themselves. Resultantly, these steps help probationers stay out the criminal justice system and give them an opportunity to become productive members of the community.
Do you need extra motivation to get involved in the BBA Reentry Education Program? Look below for insight into why you should volunteer for the program:
Michael Birch: A little support, education and knowing that the community cares can make a meaningful difference in probationers’ lives.
Anuj Khetarpal: The BBA Reentry Education Program is a valuable tool for probationers to smoothly transition back in to society. As attorneys, we have a moral obligation to better our communities, and giving probationers a fair chance at reentry is a vital way to do that. The program not only benefits the probationers, but our community as a whole, and is an important step to reduce recidivism and help those who could use an open hand.
If you are interested in reentry efforts, don’t miss the BBF’s upcoming John and Abigail Adam’s Benefit featuring this year’s honoree, Roca. Roca works to reduce recidivism and improve employment among a population of young men at high risk of reoffending in Boston, Chelsea and Springfield. Roca will be honored during the event, and the Foundation will donate $25,000 in support of Roca’s mission. Click here to learn more about the event.
Blizzards and slow public transportation didn’t stop our volunteers from getting out in the community and giving back during 2015. Take a look below for highlights from the BBA’s 2015 public service efforts:
Last week, the BBA Reentry Education Program changed locations and held a session at the Coolidge House, a Residential Reentry Center for offenders under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Ashley Mann-McLellan, the Deputy Director at New Lease for Homeless Families, met with a group of probationers and case managers to give participants practical tips on navigating the affordable housing application process.
Beyond the Billable reached out to Ashley to learn more about the importance of this session. Here’s what she had to say:
“If you ask someone without a home what their most pressing need is, generally the answer is simply a home. It can be extremely daunting to try to thrive in a homeless situation; finding jobs, maximizing income, and tending to health and wellness issues can be almost impossible during a precarious housing situation. Additionally, there is no text book or simple map sheet to figure out how to obtain affordable housing; the training was so important to the audience because it provided concrete tools, directions and strategies to access affordable homes.”
Yesterday, Dan Routh (Ropes and Gray LLP) joined a group of CARE/RESTART participants at the Moakley Courthouse for this month’s Reentry Education Program session on Massachusetts Driver’s License Reinstatement. In the session, Attorney Routh described common scenarios that participants may encounter when applying for driver’s license reinstatement, and how to navigate hurdles when they appear.
Beyond the Billable caught up with Attorney Routh after the program to find out why this topic was so important to participants. Here’s what he had to say:
“Having a driver’s license is an important threshold step for so many different aspects of a person’s life, whether it’s getting to work, running day-to-day errands, or connecting with family and friends. I am happy to be part of the Reentry Education Program’s efforts to facilitate that process and help participants navigate their way on this important first step.”
Keep a look out for updates about next month’s session on employment law.