A new online system in Massachusetts is making it easier for nearly everyone — schools, hospitals, landlords and employers — to request in-state “criminal offender record information” (CORI).

The system — appropriately named iCORI  — was developed as a result of a 2010 state mandate that updated who could have access to what criminal records data.

The password-protected system launched in May allows users to open an account, submit a criminal record request for an individual in question, and pay the required fees via credit card, said Curtis Wood, undersecretary of forensic science and technology for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.

Data on juveniles is not released through the iCORI system, and neither are fingerprint records.

The system crosschecks with other state data systems, such as the courts, prison and parole. If the individual being queried has no criminal record, the system can notify the iCORI user within minutes. But queries of people who have a record may take longer — up to a few days — because iCORI must still utilize outside legacy data systems.

Nevertheless, Wood said the new process is faster than how criminal record requests were processed in the past — manually sending in forms and then, in later years, processing via a non-Internet-based electronic system.

Massachusetts usually processes about 1 million criminal records requests a year. With iCORI, officials are projecting 2 million or more in 2012 with little to no backlog. The system requires its users to pay fees, so the system’s $1.7 million cost should pay for itself.  Future revenue from the iCORI fees will go into the state’s general fund.

As part of a larger public safety initiative, the criminal justice department worked with Massachusetts-based consulting firm X-Fact to develop the iCORI application.

Who Gets What?

Users of iCORI don’t all have the same information at their fingertips. The 2010 mandate that reformed CORI broadened access in some cases and restricted it in others. Prior to the mandate, for example, employers and landlords couldn’t make official CORI requests, but they could make open records requests. As a result of the 2010 mandate, those users can use iCORI.

“Everybody now can open up an account and they can access the criminal history based on what category you are,” Wood said.

To maintain compliance with the mandate, the iCORI system sends information back to iCORI users based on what they legally have access to. Users are divided into the following categories:

Required Access:

These users have the highest level of access to criminal records data, aside from law enforcement. If these users make a criminal record request, they can view past convictions, non-convictions, and open and closed court cases. They do not have access to juvenile records.

Examples of agencies with required access: schools and hospitals

Fee: $25 per query

Standard Access:

This category was added as a result of the 2010 mandate and gives iCORI access to users such as employers and landlords (both private and public). In this category, users can only look at an individual’s recent criminal record, such as misdemeanors within the past five years.

Fee: $25

Public Requests:

These iCORI users include the media. Users in this category can look back one year for a misdemeanor, and two years for felonies.

Fee: $50

General Public:

The general public is under this category. This would be used for anyone interested in running a personal records check on their own criminal history.

Fee $50

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.