Our History: EPOCA began organizing in 2004, when a handful of former prisoners and a community organizer began talking about the issues and problems people faced re-entering society after paying their debts. The overuse of Criminal Offender Record Information (“CORI”) emerged as the key factor preventing us from attaining self-sufficiency and housing, and restricting our families to a life of poverty and desperation. We led a statewide legislative campaign with our allies to end the overuse and misuse of criminal records by employers. On August 6, 2010 we won landmark reform ofMassachusetts’ CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) law – which was literally written with the guidance of the members of EPOCA, the Boston Workers’ Alliance, and Neighbor to Neighbor.
Along the way, we won the City of Worcester Fair CORI Practices Ordinance; built our own green, worker-owned biodiesel business, the Empower Energy Cooperative; and established the New Leafjob-placement program, which has helped hundreds of people with criminal records. Our CHINS Reform bill, (created with allies The Children’s League and Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) to divert 8,000 children away from the prison pipeline was signed into law in 2012. In 2012, we also saw the Governor’s signing of the Habitual Offender or “3-Strikes” bill into law. EPOCA and our allies succeeded in forcing a dramatic overhaul of the “3-Strikes” bill, even after the initial version of the bill passed in both the House and Senate nearly unanimously. With the hard work of our members, friends, supporters and allies we won significant amendments to this bill – amendments that saved thousands from outrageously long sentences for offenses such as trespassing or petty theft. We are proud to have played a leading role in bringing together and coordinating organizations and leaders statewide, to speak with one voice on this issue.
Last year, we helped win an increase in the minimum wage from $8 per hour $11, the highest state level in the country. EPOCA members engaged in registering people to vote and worked on Raise Up Massachusetts’ ‘Yes on 4’ campaign to enable our state’s workforce to earn up to 40 hours of sick time per year, to take care of themselves or family members. Massachusetts’ voters have approved Question 4, a measure that allows workers at companies with at least 11 employees to earn paid sick time.
Goals: Our current goals include Ending Collateral Sanctions at the Registry of Motor Vehicles (with a CORI-like reform to seal non-driving-related drug-offence records) and winning Justice Reinvestment -An Act to Increase Neighborhood Safety and Opportunity (Also known as Jobs NOT Jails‘ Omnibus Legislation).