Project Opportunity to help residents gain access to jobs, housing, education
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the launch of a new pilot initiative, Project Opportunity, to help residents seal, expunge, and manage their criminal records (CORIs) to gain access to better jobs, housing, and educational opportunities. Project Opportunity draws on the collaborative expertise of various City departments and external partners to connect residents with the necessary legal and support services.
"We launched Project Opportunity because in Boston all residents deserve a fair chance to gain quality jobs, housing, and education," said Mayor Walsh. "No matter their past, we owe it to our residents to provide the legal services and job-training programs to achieve a better future, and I'm proud this program builds on our commitment to improving lives in Boston."
- Connect residents with free legal consultation to determine if their CORIs are eligible for sealing or expungement;
- Cover the filing costs of sealing or expungement;
- Convene experts to discuss CORI-related challenges and potential solutions;
- Connect residents with employment opportunities, job training, and related services, such as housing, food access, and transportation;
- Train City of Boston departments that work with residents with CORIs.
The cornerstone of Project Opportunity is the sealing and expungement of CORIs, which severely limit employment opportunities and disproportionately affect communities of color. Black men with a criminal record, for example, are less likely than white men with a criminal record to receive a callback or job offer. This barrier takes a toll on both the individual and society: Stable employment has been found to be one of the most significant factors in preventing a person's relapse into criminal behavior.
However, new pathways to sealing and expunging CORIs have opened in recent years due to a series of Massachusetts legislative reforms. As of 2018 most felony cases can be sealed after seven years, and most misdemeanors after three. Additionally, cannabis charges can now be expunged from one's record.
Working with various City departments and external resources, Project Opportunity helps residents avail themselves of these routes to a clear record. The nonprofit Lawyers Clearinghouse supplies volunteer lawyers to meet with residents for a thorough review of their CORI options. SOAR Boston, a City of Boston violence prevention program which stands for Street Outreach, Advocacy, and Response, offers computer access and a private space, if needed, for these remote appointments. The Mayor's Office of Public Safety and the Mayor's Office of Returning Citizens provide outreach to those who could most benefit from these services, while the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development supplies resources on CORI-friendly jobs and job training programs.
In 2017, Mayor Walsh launched the City's Office of Returning Citizens as part of the Office of Public Safety to support the nearly 3,000 individuals who return to Boston after being released from state, federal and county facilities each year, as well as others who were previously incarcerated. Mayor Walsh created the Office of Public Safety in 2014 with the mandate of establishing cross-agency and cabinet coordination to tackle the challenging and complex problems in our neighborhoods that lead to and perpetuate violence.