State Rep. Alice K. Wolf

While the bill passed Wednesday reforming the Criminal Offender Record Information system mainly reduced the period for which records can be accessed, state Rep. Alice K. Wolf was lead sponsor of an amendment that seems almost contrary to the spirit of the reform: ensuring there’s no backlog slowing the release of criminal records.

The two elements of the bill — prohibiting employers from asking about criminal records on initial job applications is another one — are not so far apart, though. Both are described as being about tearing down barriers for employment for people with criminal records.

The amendment began with the concerns of home health aides whose hiring and housing could be slowed by such a backlog, said Kathleen Hornby, an aide to Wolf. But the Cambridge Democrat expanded it to offer the same assurances to all workers.

The reform bill, with Wolf’s amendment, passed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives with a 138-17 vote. The Senate has passed a similar bill.

The legislation means the system will reveal results dating back 10 years for felony convictions, down from 15, and five years for misdemeanors, down from 10. Convictions for murder and other serious crimes would not be eligible for sealing.

When the system was created, its reports were used exclusively by law enforcement officials. Now its reports are used by employers, landlords and others in decisions on hiring, housing, student loans and more, Wolf said Thursday.

“CORI reform will help provide a critical balance between eliminating the bad practices that lead to injustices and ensuring public safety. I am pleased that after years of tireless work, this bill has passed,” she said.

Her amendment passed unanimously. Backlogs have sometimes made it difficult for employers, such as human service providers, to hire qualified employees, leading to delays in services to at-risk people, Hornby said. If a backlog develops, the office providing reports must explain why to legislators.

The bill also makes it a crime to knowingly disseminate, falsify or request a CORI report when unauthorized to do so.

Some information in this post was taken from a press release.