The following is a joint statement from State Senator Katherine Clark and State Reps. Paul Brodeur and Donald Wong:
In December, our communities were stunned when a Wakefield man was charged with 100 counts of child abuse and sexual assault involving very young children. This deeply disturbing case highlights the need to strengthen our laws and regulations to help prevent these horrific crimes in the future.
Over the past month, we have been working with Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone, Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith, and our colleagues in the legislature on a bill to strengthen the Commonwealth’s sex offender registry system, make more information available to the public, and promote communication among the state agencies with a shared responsibility to protect our children and ensure the safety of our childcare facilities.
On January 18, we filed An Act to protect our communities. This comprehensive legislation will:
- Empower the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) to reclassify offenders on its own initiative or upon written request by a District Attorney or police department. Currently, the SORB can only reclassify an offender to a higher level of threat if there is a new conviction for a sex offense. This bill would allow the SORB to legally consider additional information and law enforcement reports that may indicate a higher likelihood of re-offense.
- Ensure that the SORB has access to all relevant information necessary to determine an offender’s level of risk. The bill also will clarify what information must be reported to SORB regarding abuse and neglect.
- Make Level 1 sex offender information publicly available via an in-person request at local police departments.
- Strengthen interagency communication by providing direct access to registry information for the Department of Youth Services, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Early Education and Care, the Parole Board, the Department of Probation and the Department of Mental Health.
- Instruct SORB to develop a formal, interagency process for sharing information that may have bearing on the reclassification of a sex offender.
- Establish a commission to study the development and use of a Massachusetts Authorized Risk Assessment Tool for Sexual Offenders to determine the level of risk and recidivism that a given convicted sex offender may present.
- Mandate that the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) makes information about licensing history of childcare facilities publically available online.
No law can absolutely protect our families and our communities from crime. However, we believe that these changes will strengthen our system of oversight of convicted sex offenders and ensure that citizens, local law enforcement and relevant state agencies have better access to the information they need to keep our kids safe.