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MA: SJC Ends Lifetime Parole for Sex Offenders

The Supreme Judicial Court today ruled that lifetime parole for sex offenders violates the state’s constitution, The Boston Globe reports. In a 6-1 decision where Justice Robert Cordy was the dissenter on some issues, the state’s highest court said judges alone have the power to sentence people. The state law that created “community parole supervision for life” for sex offenders unconstitutionally gives the Parole Board that same power. Full Article

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  1. Robert Curtis

    Can we use this as a legal precedent against a lifetime registry? Being on the registry is a form of parole/probation. A rose by any other name right?

  2. Janice Bellucci

    This is amazing! We can only hope that the California courts can learn from this decision. And perhaps this decision can lead us to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Smith v. Doe, which continues to deny the civil rights of registered citizens.

    • JB

      By CA SOMB’s own admission and report, any offense-free registrant after 17 years on the state registry is less of a public threat then a person convicted of any crime. ‘For life’ registration after 17 years without due process review becomes punitive and may challenge Smith v Doe.

      • steve

        I don’t think it says “less of a threat” but i recall something more like someone on the registry 17 years conviction free is no more of a threat than someone not on the registry to commit a sex offense.

        • JB

          Yes, it is better stated as “no more of a threat.” Still that equates to a “similar situated” group being treated unequally, which is a 14th amendment violation. Karl Hanson’s report statistically shows low risk offenders to be “less of a threat,” but it is not within the margin of error. The CA SOMB quote from page 5: “Eventually, for many offenders, the risk becomes so low as to be meaningless and the identification of these individuals through a registry becomes unhelpful,” is a strong statement from law enforcement and should/could be viable within the courts for restoring civil rights.

        • Tim

          The perception of the public and hense the lawmakers is that the more shocking the crime the more likely it is to be repeated, that and the greater intolerance for any risk of repeating some crimes will be weighed more heavily than others. This bias seems to be built into the process. Even the CASCOMB proposal recommends that certain crimes be “punished” through lifetime registration, at odds with the evidence. Another aspect is that as long as the state is considered responsible whenever a crime happens, either because it failed to identify a risk properly or failed to come up with a law that provides maximum protection, we are going to see a push for harsher laws. Until the attitude towards what government can and can not do becomes more realistic. and the balance of responsibility for safety shifts more proportionally back to the individual citizen, and the state is able to relax some of its obsesive paternalistic oversight of the population, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

    • Scott

      Read this:
      http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2014/06/massachusetts_house_minority_l.html

      Lawmakers in Mass. will just change this lifetime supervision law so the court has this authority rather than a Parole Board and then the law becomes constitutional.

  3. steve

    I’m not sure what I see is so great about this. Sex Offender Registration is JUST LIKE being on parole or probation and that law is still on the books

    • MA Citizen

      Steve, there is nothing “great” about any of this, I agree. But, it’s a step in the right direction, as with any ruling that rules in the favor of less restrictions for RSOs. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. All of these little battle victories will eventually win the war.

    • Tim

      I agree with you. It doesn’t hurt to keep your eyes on the prize and to keep saying this is not enough. Looking at other civil rights movements I think they will agree. Gay marriage advocates didn’t seem content with civil unions. Black activists didn’t seem content with separate but equal. You might have to keep saying it until more and more people repeat it, but saying “this is not enough, we need to make it to the finish line” is how you get to where you want to go. Of course, its also good to say, now and again, look how far we’ve come.

  4. ab

    Expand upon this and push for removing life time probation, parole, and supervised release for everyone. Those who previously committed sex offenses are not the only ones who can be given some type of life time supervision. I want to keep extremely dangerous people from doing more harm as much as the next person, but if someone is at such a risk why are they being released in the first place? This is why life sentences, death row, and the federal supermax exist to keep the most dangerous people out of society. Then specifically for sex offenders is civil commitment. Not that these methods actually solve anything or are even effective long term measures.

    Anytime the government has to spend money on someone over a long time, if enough people are involved the scale eventually tips and the cost begins to outweigh the benefits. More and more frequently people are seeing what happens when money gets thrown into a black hole, other “important” areas suffer.

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