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LETTERS

Governor Baker’s bill renews focus on dealing with sex offenders

A court officer pushes convicted child rapist Wayne W. Chapman into the courtroom for his arraignment in Ayer District Court in June 2018.Chris Christo/Pool

Protecting children from abuse calls for better prevention

Your Dec. 12 editorial, “Child predators target of sex offender bill,” hit the nail on the head with the first sentence: It shouldn’t take a crisis to better protect children from sexual predators. Protecting children from the trauma of sexual abuse requires a proactive approach, not only focused on strengthening laws, but also prioritizing policies and programs that prevent abuse from occurring in the first place.

For example, the Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse released guidelines to help child-serving organizations implement policies that prevent potential abusers from gaining access to children, and we can train early-childhood professionals to spot the warning signs of potential abusers. By prioritizing prevention, we can raise safe and healthy kids in the Commonwealth.

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Suzin Bartley

Executive director

The Children’s Trust

Boston

The writer cochairs the Massachusetts Legislative Task Force on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse.


Push for Draconian policy is based on false assumptions

We regret the stance the Globe has taken in support of Governor Baker’s bill seeking mandatory life sentences for those convicted of certain serious sexual offenses and radical changes to our civil commitment procedures. The governor was responding to the hysteria erupting a year and a half ago when Wayne Chapman, a man in his 70s with many medical problems and who uses a wheelchair, was released from civil commitment.

The Supreme Judicial Court in May unanimously concluded that there was no evidence to warrant changing the present process of civil commitment. In fact, a Globe article last year found that between 2015 and 2017, 49 people who had been civilly committed after serving their full sentences were finally released from preventive detention after being cleared by a pair of psychologists. At that point, only one of them had gone back to prison, and that was for stealing a car, not a new sexual crime.

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Civil commitment is an extraordinary measure. People who have completed their sentence can be put behind bars not for what they have done, but for what people think they might do. People can be wrong, and no better example can be found than that of Bill Canavan. A level 2 registrant, he was released from civil commitment and established the Boston Release Network, which helps others released from civil commitment to register with the police and to find shelter, employment, and whatever else can help prevent them from reoffending.

We believe the governor’s bill is inhumane, expensive, and regressive in its call for new, Draconian policies that are based on false assumptions. Money put into education, prevention, and treatment would be better spent.

Ros Winsor

Paul Shannon

Boston

This letter was cosigned by 19 others on behalf of the Sex Offender Policy Reform Initiative, a project of the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition.