By George Brennan
Less than a decade after a Falmouth murder case shined the spotlight on the need for reform of the state's Sex Offender Registry, a monitoring program sparked by the outrage no longer exists — a victim of budget cuts.
- As usual, a murder occurs, so they go after ex-sex offenders instead of murderers! That is like punishing all thieves for something a serial killer has done. Yeah, doesn't make much sense, does it? Sex offenders are nothing more than today's scapegoat!
Now, in the wake of an alleged sex abuse case at an unlicensed day care center in Wakefield, there is a renewed push to reform how sex offenders are classified. [name withheld], whose wife ran the day care business, had previously been classified as a Level I sex offender for a 1989 conviction of assault on a child.
In her inaugural speech Wednesday, Senate President Therese Murray, D-Plymouth, who represents the Upper Cape, said the state's sex offender laws will be one of her legislative priorities.
- Yes of course, she is trying to get elected, or just elected, so what better way to appeal to the sheeple? This just goes to show you that no matter how many laws you pass, if a person is intent on committing a crime, they will. These laws are useless and just used by politicians to help them get elected, or to help them look "tough" to the ignorant public.
"With the start of this new session, we will re-examine the criteria for sex offender registration to ensure that we are doing all that we can to protect our children and their families," Murray said after being elected to her fourth term in the Senate's top job.
- No matter what you do, it won't prevent children from being harmed, period!
It was Murray who in 2004 worked with Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings and Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe after [name withheld], a registered sex offender who had failed to notify law enforcement of his moves as required by law, killed 20-year-old [name withheld] of Falmouth.
Murray pushed for $275,000 to bring a pilot program to the county that made sure sex offenders were classified before leaving prison, Cummings said Thursday. Inmates in state prison were sent to the Barnstable County Correctional Facility in Bourne for the last six to nine months of their sentences, Cummings said, where hearings were held by the Sex Offender Registry Board to classify them as Level I, II or III sex offenders.
While they were still in jail, the sheriff's office and local police teamed up to check out the address where the offender planned to live, Cummings said. They also did periodic checks to make sure the offender hadn't moved without letting law enforcement know, he said.
Officers and sheriff's deputies also checked in with employers periodically, he said.
"It was a great program, and we wanted to expand it, but (the) administration cut funding," Murray said Thursday.
With the funding cut in 2008, the sheriff still holds hearings at the jail for inmates sentenced to Barnstable County, but no longer has the resources to take in all Cape sex offenders from other jails, he said. The department can no long afford to do the routine checks, Cummings said.
"We pretty much had a thumb on where they lived and worked," he said. "We don't do that anymore either."
Murray said she would like to see funding for that program restored and to tighten up controls that allow suspects like [name withheld] to slip through the cracks.
"You have to fund it," she said. "It's a public safety issue. We put money in other areas. We need to put money into this."
Murray would also like the criteria for each level to be reviewed because she doesn't believe [name withheld] should ever have been classified as a Level I. The Sex Offender Registry Board also should have the ability to review allegations brought against a sex offender, even if it doesn't result in a court conviction, she said.
- It doesn't matter what someone classifies an offender, it will never be enough. If they commit another crime, politicians will say, "See, the program isn't working and he/she shouldn't have been a tier 1," just like this politician is now screaming about. They will not be satisfied until all criminals are in prison for life and never let out, but even then I'm sure they'll find something else to be dissatisfied about.
The state Department of Corrections also must begin review of sex offenders earlier to ensure that none are released before they are classified, something that's already required by law but isn't always being done because of a backlog of cases, Murray said.
Charles McDonald, a spokesman for the Sex Offender Registry Board, said the agency has cut the classification time in half and only a "small number" are released without being classified.
Classifications have to be able to withstand judicial review, he said.
Murray said a small working group is already looking at possible reforms, noting that the Patrick administration, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, are all on board with making changes.
The registry board supported a comprehensive bill filed by Gov. Patrick in 2012 that would have allowed the posting of Level II offenders and the release of Level I offenders upon request, McDonald said. He's hopeful some of those reforms will be considered this year.
Cummings said he was pleased to hear Murray once again leading the charge for tighter controls on sex offenders, though he acknowledged being frustrated that it takes high profile incidents like the Wessner murder and the alleged abuse of babies in Wakefield to trigger change.
Having Murray behind it will help, he said. "That's where the money is going to come from."
O'Keefe, the district attorney who is president of the state association of district attorneys for the coming year, met briefly with Murray during a visit to the Statehouse on Thursday.
"We haven't seen any proposals or discussed any details, but that would be a welcome initiative that she's undertaking," O'Keefe said.