District Attorney Ryan Testifies at Hearing to Strengthen Sex Offender Oversight
BOSTON, MA — District Attorney Marian T. Ryan joined State Rep. Paul Brodeur and Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith at a State House hearing by Joint Committee on the Judiciary to testify in support of legislation that will improve oversight, classification and public access to information on convicted sex offenders.
An Act to protect our communities, sponsored by Senator Katherine Clark (S.656) and Representative Paul Brodeur (H.1232), has the bipartisan co-sponsorship of 27 members of the legislature and the strong support of District Attorney Ryan.
Families, advocates and law enforcement officials testified in support of the bill, including Chief Smith, whose own community was stunned when John Burbine, of Wakefield, 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. This legislation does so fairly and judiciously.
“I am committed to doing all that I can to protect children, engage in prevention efforts, and punish those who abuse or exploit children,” District Attorney Ryan said. “This legislation does several very important things to clarify and strengthen the sex offender registry laws resulting in better information to the public and enhancement of child protection and public safety. I look forward to working with Senator Clark and the legislature on moving this important bill forward.”
“Tragically, we know that no law can absolutely protect our families and our communities from crime. But when changes are clearly needed to improve public safety, we must act without delay. That is the case here,” said Senator Clark. “This legislation will strengthen our laws, provide more information to parents and caregivers, and require information sharing among law enforcement and the agencies we depend on to keep our kids safe.”
“The Burbine case made it abundantly clear that SORB needs to be reevaluated. This bill, the product of intensive cooperation between the legislature, the district attorney’s office, and local police, provides the means for that reevaluation,” said Representative Brodeur stated that this bill “will improve existing laws, improve agency practices and keep our children safe.”
“It was an honor to have the opportunity to present in front of the Committee with the hope that the bill will move quickly through the legislature,” said Wakefield Police Chief Rick Smith. “I thank Senator Clark for the opportunity and for her hard work and for moving this bill forward.”
Specifically, An Act to protect our communities would:
◦Allow limited public access to Level 1 offender information, currently unavailable to the public. This change would enable police departments to share information when presented with a specific request by a parent or caregiver.
◦Create a rebuttable presumption that an offender convicted of a crime involving a child should be classified as at least a Level 2 offender.
◦Provide for direct access to Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) information by agencies responsible for ensuring child safety.
◦Grant SORB the authority to reclassify offenders on its own initiative or upon written request by a District Attorney or police department.
◦Require the creation of a structured system of communication among the District Attorneys, police, SORB, and other state agencies to facilitate the sharing of all information that may have bearing on the reclassification of a sex offender.
◦Establish a commission to determine the best methods of classifying sex offenders.
◦Clarify registration requirements and information to be reported.
◦Require the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to publish licensing information on its website.
The full text of the bill is available at: http://www.malegislature.gov/Bills/188/Senate/S656.