BOSTON – In response to a report issued last week by State Auditor Suzanne Bump, Representative Harold P. Naughton (D-Clinton) and Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) are considering a legislative review of policies and procedures utilized by the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB). Among its findings, the report highlights SORB’s inability to adequately maintain the addresses of nearly 1,800 convicted sex offenders, and its failure to classify over 900 sex offenders in the Commonwealth. Naughton and Moore serve as the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security which possess oversight authority over the SORB.
“As Chairman of the Joint Committee, shaping legislation and practices that best promote public safety and protect residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is my priority,” said Representative Naughton. “The committee is exploring the possibility of holding an oversight hearing which would enable us to dive into the findings and recommendations of the audit, and would ideally allow the Legislature the opportunity to work closely with the Executive Office, the Executive Office of Public Safety and the Office of the Auditor, alongside SORB in finding a strong solution. When it comes to dealing with SORB and the unaccounted and unclassified offenders, no rock can be left unturned; it is our duty as elected officials to solve this threat to public safety.”
The SORB is an office within the Executive Office of Public Safety. The SORB collects the addresses and contact information for convicted sex offenders living in Massachusetts and distributes this information to local law enforcement agencies, and maintains a publically-available online registry of level 3 and level 2 sex offenders classified after July 12, 2013. The board is responsible for implementing the classification of convicted sex offenders who are released back into the community.
“The Auditor’s findings detail troubling deficiencies with current practices employed by the SORB,” said Senator Moore. “The SORB is a critical piece of our public safety infrastructure, and there must be strict adherence to established policies to effectively protect residents of our Commonwealth. It is clear from the report that the SORB failed to meet appropriately high standards during the investigatory period. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Joint Committee to address these deficiencies and to restore public trust and confidence in the system.”
The Auditor’s report found that of the nearly 1,800 sex offenders unaccounted for by the SORB, 936 had never been classified upon release from incarceration. Offenders are grouped into three classifications; level 1, level 2, and level 3, which indicate a low, moderate or high risk of reoffending. The SORB, the office of the State Auditor, and the Administration all cited the recent complication of the classification process as one reason for the backlog. A 2015 Supreme Judicial Court ruling, in John Doe 380316 v. Sex Offender Registry Board, established a higher legal standard for the classification process, resulting in increased strain on the system.
The audit also found that SORB was not properly verifying the addresses of these violators, and recommends the board take steps towards the use of secure data sharing agreements between comparable agencies in other states. For additional information on all Joint Committee public hearing dates, please visit www.malegislature.gov.