Boston Group Helps Ex-Inmates Get Lives Straight


The Boston Workers Alliance is taking on one of the nation's grimmest and most intractable federal statistics – one out of every six black men has served time behind bars, says the Boston Globe. If current trends hold, one out of every three black males born today will know an inmate's life. Some 700 people come through the employment office's door each year, warily sizing up the stacks of forms, the worn office furniture, the civil rights posters on the walls, and summoning the courage to seek help erasing a stain from their life's story.

The Massachusetts criminal records law can make it very hard to move beyond the past. Reforms to CORI, as the law is known, can seem abstract. There is nothing abstract about it at the Boston Workers Alliance. The question really is: How hard should it be to move past a criminal life into an honest one? “Most of my friends are six feet under or in prison,'' said Quito Pagan, a 37-year-old former drug dealer who has worked only sporadically since his days behind bars. “We were in a young man's business.''

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