STATE REPRESENTATIVE
PAUL C. CASEY

Room 473-B
State House
Boston, MA 02133
Telephone: (617) 722-2230
District Office
585A Main St.
Winchester, MA 01890
Telephone: (617) 721-7285 or (617) 438-7185

A View from the Hill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 1, 1999
CONTACT: Tom Nolan (617) 722-2230 e-mail: Thomas.Nolan@state.ma.us

IT'S TIME WE COMMIT TO CIVIL COMMITMENT

A twice convicted sex offender has been charged with raping a pre-school age boy at a caretaker's Northborough home. . . . My stomach turned as I read the article detailing the abhorrent acts of David Kelley, the most recent notorious pedophile to make news in the Commonwealth. Beyond the fact that his victim was a defenseless four-year old boy, what I found particularly disturbing was that Mr. Kelley, who twice plead guilty to charges of statutory rape and indecent assault and battery on a child (in 1982 and 1986), was complying with the law that requires him to register with the centralized sex offender registry and his local police department. Marlborough police had disclosed his deviant status to the public since the day he moved back to the community after his release from prison in 1992. Northborough police, likewise, complied with sex offender notification procedures when he recently moved into that town, a move that drew fierce reactions from residents and school officials. Yet, registration and notification aside, the bottom line is that upon his release back into society, David Kelley, a dangerous sexual predator with a known history for preying on children, was given the opportunity to destroy the tender fragility of yet, another child's life.

While public notification of a sex offender's whereabouts is essential, recent events underscore that it is not a panacea for sexual deviancy. Some months ago in this column, I argued in support of more progressive measures to curtail recidivism of sexual predators by cutting off the ability to re-offend altogether. One of the most effective means of protection that I cited then, and continue to advocate, is the civil commitment of dangerous sex offenders for an indefinite period of time following the completion of their prison sentence. Motivated by my desire to rid our communities of these inexcusable deviants, I filed legislation before the 1999 filing deadline last December, seeking to re-establish this practice in the state of Massachusetts.

As House Chairman for the Committee on Public Safety, I am particularly concerned with making sure that we not only punish these egregious crimes, but that we prevent their reoccurrence. Currently, there are stiff penalties in place for those who commit sex offenses, especially those who victimize innocent children. In fact, the penalties for certain crimes against minors are very steep, and in some cases, permit life sentences. The real danger, as we have unfortunately seen, is with those offenders who serve lesser sentences and re-enter communities with the proclivity to re-offend.

With each new incident involving a repeat offender, it is becoming apparent that sex offenders, whether they victimize children or adults, must be treated differently than other types of criminals. Sex offenders are a particularly heinous breed of criminals due to the extreme emotional and psychological damage they inflict upon their victims. The risk these offenders pose is exacerbated by the nearly complete inability for rehabilitation. We must begin to realize that by releasing sex offenders back into society with little more restriction than requiring them to register with a central registry, we jeopardize the well-being of each and every one of us. But the most vulnerable, those who are most susceptible to physical attack, deception or the lure of false promises, are our children who deserve this greater protection.

The concept of civil commitment is not a new one for Massachusetts. In fact, the Nemansket Treatment Center currently houses offenders committed there prior to the early 1990's who, after their release from prison, were still considered sexually dangerous. Although not a prison, the Nemansket facility serves the dual purpose of keeping sexual deviants out of mainstream society while providing necessary treatment for those offenders. Since the repeal of the operative sections of the civil commitment law in 1990, however, no sex offender released from prison has been confined to Nemansket for further treatment.

While I expect objection from the ACLU, the practice of civil commitment had been upheld by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and was recently found constitutional by United States Supreme Court. In its 1997 decision, the Supreme Court stressed the importance of public safety in these cases over the personal privilege of offenders to roam free in the outside world after release. To be sure, the state has a strong public interest in making sure that dangerous sex offenders receive proper treatment and therapy before re-entering their community.

The implementation of a civil commitment law allows the Commonwealth to potentially keep sexually deviant persons like David Kelley, Brian Nagle and David Routhier in a secure facility for the rest of their lives. In essence, by re-opening the doors to Nemansket, we are also slamming-shut the door into our communities for convicted sexual predators.

While the state grapples with how to address the Supreme Judicial Court's concerns regarding the notification laws and the families of victims struggle with moving on, we in the legislature must begin to consider alternative approaches to curtail the occurrence of sex offenses. In addition to civil commitment, I filed a bill to study the effectiveness of medical treatment (i.e., chemical castration) to extinguish the predatory sex drive these criminals harbor. California has implemented this practice as a means to defuse the offender's abnormal tendencies.

Indeed, there is no single solution to such a complex problem. While these contemptible, twisted acts of perversion should never occur, we will admittedly never be able to anticipate who may perpetrate the next atrocious crime. Yet, we can ensure that those who choose to victimize others in this manner will not be given the opportunity ever again. A "two strikes" policy touted by some sounds tough, but there should never be a second strike. It is time that we, as a society, resolutely embrace severe alternatives to combat the very personal catastrophic disease that abnormal miscreants inject into the veins of our peaceful neighborhoods.

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