This week's state auditor report that a large number of sex offenders live at addresses registered as childcare facilities has only fueled the effort on Beacon Hill to publicize the names of all those who've committed sex crimes.
"The auditor's recent findings should serve as a catalyst to pass targeted legislation which protects the Commonwealth's citizens from dangerous sex offenders," House Minority Leader Brad Jones Jr. (R-North Reading) said in a statement Wednesday. "The report published today is an unfortunate example of why comprehensive sex offender legislation I filed will, in part, open the lines of communication between the Department of Early Education and Care and the Sex Offender Registry Board."
Jones' bill is one of three now in the House that propose changing state law to make the names of lower-level offenders available either online or at a police department. Currently, only the names of Level 3 offenders, who are deemed by the registry board to be the most likely to reoffend, are public information.
Jones' bill, "An Act relative to protecting the citizens of the Commonwealth from sex offenders," would make information about both Level 2 and 3 sex offenders available online and a list of Level 1 sex offenders available at police departments. It also restricts who can be classified as a Level 1 sex offender. Those who commit crimes against children or "other particularly violent sexually based crimes" would not be able to receive a Level 1 designation. Some exceptions exist for people who committed their crime when they were younger than 14.
Currently, the power to classify each offender lies with the registry board, which considers a number of factors related to the crime. These may include the offender's criminal history, the circumstances of the crime, the degree of harm caused and other considerations. For more, see the board's guidelines.
The two other bills, "An Act relative to public access to sex offender registration information" by Rep. Shaunna O'Connell (R-Taunton) and Rep. James Dwyer (D-Woburn), and "An Act relative to the Sex Offender Registry Board" by Rep. James Arciero (D-Westford) both aim to make information regarding all sex offenders available online. Such information includes the nature of the offense and the offender's name, address, age, employer, race, height, hair and eye colors and photo.
All three bills are scheduled for a Joint Committee on the Judiciary hearing on May 7.
The three bills were filed in January, a month after a Level 1 sex offender, John Burbine of Wakefield, was charged with 100 counts of child sex abuse involving 13 infants and toddlers at the illegal daycare service he ran.
Jessica Leitz, a spokeswoman for State Senator Katherine Clark, told Patch.com Thursday that senator will make sex offender registry reform a top priority for the current session.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump released findings Wednesday that suggest Burbine is far from being the only sex offender who has access to children. Bump's audit found that 119 Level 2 and 3 sex offenders living at addresses that were also registered with the state as child care providers. The audit took place over 15 months from July 2010 through September 2011.
"It just highlights the urgency we've felt all along," said Leitz in regard to the auditor's report.