FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 23, 2013
CONTACT: Jessica Leitz, 617-722-1206
BOSTON – Senator Katherine Clark (D-5th Middlesex), working closely with Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone, Representative Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose), Representative Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith, today announced legislative action 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 children and ensure the safety of childcare facilities.
In December, a Wakefield man was charged with 100 counts of child abuse and sexual assault involving very young children. The case highlighted the need to strengthen the Commonwealth’s laws and regulations to help prevent these horrific crimes in the future.
Senator Clark filed a comprehensive bill, An Act to protect our communities (SD1613), in the Massachusetts State Senate on January 18, 2013. Representatives Brodeur and Wong filed corresponding legislation (HD3309) in the House of Representatives.
“We must 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,” said Senator Clark. “This bill is thoughtful, thorough and fair, and we have worked closely with District Attorney Leone and local police departments to ensure that it will make a real difference in our communities.”
Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone praised the bipartisan legislation, saying, “We are grateful that Senator Clark and the Legislature see child protection as the priority that the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office does, and have acted quickly on this as a bipartisan effort to serve and protect our communities and the most vulnerable amongst us. This legislation will clarify and strengthen laws regarding the Sex Offender Registry Board and the classification of sex offenders. It allows for inter-agency coordination of efforts, by lending clarity to the ability to share information, as well as to the rules and procedures for sex offender classification, while strengthening the public notification element of the classification process.”
“We remain committed to doing all that we can to protect children, and will continue to do all within our power to prevent and punish those who engage in the abuse and exploitation of children,” said Leone.
Representative Paul Brodeur said, “In light of recent events, it is clear we need to reexamine our Sex Offender Registry system. I am pleased to be working with Senator Clark and District Attorney Leone on this important piece of legislation which will provide better oversight of offenders and will allow the public to have better access to more useful information. This bill ensures that families are able to make informed decisions about who they are entrusting the care of their loved ones to.”
Wakefield Chief of Police Rick Smith added, “The Burbine case has brought to light many things, including enabling us to look at the statutes surrounding sex offenders and their classification. Our goal is that by working cooperatively, we will be able to change the current legislation calling for better oversight of convicted sex offenders thus ensuring our children and other potential victims are protected.”
An Act to Protect Our Communities 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.
- Ensure that the Board has access to all relevant information necessary to determine an offender’s level of risk and clarify what types of incidents are to be reported.
- 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 agencies responsible for ensuring child safety, and develop a formal, interagency process for sharing information that may have bearing on the reclassification of a sex offender.
- Change the definition of sex offense involving a child to include the crime of possession of child pornography.
- Create a rebuttable presumption that a sex offender convicted of a sex offense involving a child will be designated a Level 2 offender.
- Make information about licensing history of childcare facilities publically available online.
For more information and/or media requests, please contact Jessica Leitz, Chief of Staff to Senator Katherine Clark at 617 722-1206.