Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito appealed to lawmakers Tuesday for new sentencing and civil commitment laws targeting repeat child rapists, but opponents of Gov. Charlie Baker’s bill argued the proposal is unnecessary and would be costly and ineffective.
Baker’s proposal calls for changes to the civil commitment process under which sexually dangerous people are reviewed for possible release and for a mandatory minimum sentence of life without parole for anyone who uses force to rape two or more children, or uses force to rape a child after being convicted of a previous sex offense.
“This should carry, for the worst of the worst, a life sentence without parole,” Polito told the Judiciary Committee at a hearing on legislation, which Baker filed in reaction to a controversy over Wayne Chapman.
In 1977, Chapman was sentenced to serve 30 years in prison for the rapes of two boys, and he was civilly committed to prison as a sexually dangerous person after his sentence ended. He was cleared for release after two psychologists ruled he was no longer a danger, but remains in custody after authorities arrested him for indecent exposure and lewd, wanton and lascivious acts that allegedly occurred in a state prison earlier this month.
Representing the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, Michael Nam-Crane told lawmakers to have faith in the trial-by-jury system and the work of qualified examiners who evaluate civilly committed sex offenders.
“The system is not broke,” said Nam-Crane.
Allison Jordan, attorney at the Committee for Public Counsel Services, said the state has not compiled or released data regarding recidivism among people released from civil commitments associated with sexual offenses. She suggested a recidivism rate of 1 percent or less.
“This bill will not result in fewer victims of sexual violence,” said Jordan, who predicted the legislation, if approved, would lead to millions of dollars in new expenses associated with litigation and incarceration.