Category Archives: Housing Sex Offenders

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories Meeting Minutes – 12/17/15

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories
Meeting Minutes
December 17, 2015

In attendance: Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County Sheriff’s Dept and DOC re-entry program; Laurie Guidry, MATSA, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Jay Levy, Eliot-CHS Homeless Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network

Laurie Guidry provided us an update on statewide happenings on this issue:

The Special Commission to Reduce Sex Offense Recidivism, after meeting for over a year (which included the Network presentation), is now in its report-writing stage, meeting as a core group to get clear on its recommendations. The report is likely to be published for review (and subsequent public hearings) in late February or March. The Network will plan to testify at the public hearing on the report.

SORB issued new regulations about 6 weeks ago that unfortunately failed to incorporate all the “best practices” learning acquired through the Commission (SORB representatives have attended the Commission meeting, making the disconnect all the more confounding). SORB held a public hearing on these regulations on December 16, which Laurie attended, along with other expert colleagues. The Network also submitted written testimony consistent with its Commission presentation last July.

You can learn more about the SORB regulations and the testimony in opposition to them from this letter from MATSA and this Powerpoint Presentation.

The MA Supreme Judicial Court just issued on Friday, 12/11/15, an extremely important decision regarding SORB’s requirements to assign a level of risk (e.g., Level 1, 2 or 3) by a more stringent standard. Instead of the “preponderance of the evidence” standard, the Court imposed a “clear and convincing evidence” standard. This decision will have significant ramifications for SORB’s decision making and signals the broader acknowledgment of the need for significant reform. This is great news!

Laurie will keep us posted on follow-up developments from this decision, the Commission’s work and SORB’s regulations. The Network will be at the ready to participate and add its voice to the effort for positive reform.

Housing People With Sex Offense Histories – Minutes of 9/9/15

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories
Meeting Minutes
September 9, 2015

In attendance: Elizabeth Bienz, ServiceNet, Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County Sheriff’s Department/DOC Re-entry program, Wendy Coco, Commonwealth Care, Joe Critelli, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, Laurie Guidry, MATSA, Phyllis Lutsky, VAMC, Pamela Schwartz, Network

Updates from Laurie Guidry:

The Statewide Commission to Reduce Sex Offender Recidivism will be holding public hearings later this fall prior to issuing its report at the beginning of 2016.  We all agreed that the Network would participate in those hearings to the extent possible (there is a push for a Western MA location to be included) to ensure our perspective and agenda were communicated.  Laurie reported that the Commission meetings thus far have been worthwhile and gave very nice feedback around the Network presentation last May.

Pamela also received outreach from the Criminal Policy Justice Coalition, based in Boston, which is organizing statewide input on the Commission process.  We will continue to be in touch with them and participate in their effort.

We all acknowledged the significance of the recent MA court case that struck down residency restrictions in Lynn, MA, and the implications that will have across the state. The Springfield city council committee was meeting today to have an initial discussion of the court case’s impact on its residency restrictions, and we will follow-up on what happened.

Laurie also shared that she presented on a SAMHSA sponsored webinar on the challenge of housing sex offenders.  We all agreed that the fact that this issue is receiving federal agency attention is a positive indication of the movement towards evidence-based change.  Thanks to Laurie for providing such expertise to the effort.

Laurie also provided an update on the MA SJC decision striking down absolute bans of sex offenders from nursing homes.  The decision had been “held” due to some court proceedings and now is being publicly released.  This is good news.

The issue of HUD policy around whether it allows housing sex offenders in permanent supportive housing was raised. There is debate around the interpretation of their policy to the extent it is unnecessarily excluding sex offenders. We will look into this further.

It was agreed that we would be in touch via email around our next meeting date whicih would in part be determined by next steps in participating in the Commission process.

Residency restrictions for sex offenders struck down

On Friday, August 28, the MA Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling that struck down residency restrictions for sex offenders.  This Boston Globe article reported:

Cities and towns cannot ban sex offenders from living near parks and schools, the state’s high court said Friday, in a sharply worded ruling that could invalidate local laws in 49 municipalities from Springfield to Fall River.

The Supreme Judicial Court’s unanimous decision likened the restrictions to two dark chapters in American history: the forcible removal of Indian tribes in the 19th century and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

“Except for the incarceration of persons under the criminal law and the civil commitment of mentally ill or dangerous persons, the days are long since past when whole communities of persons, such as Native Americans and Japanese-Americans, may be lawfully banished from our midst,” Justice Geraldine S. Hines wrote.

Read more here.

The Network’s Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories applauds this decision as an important step in the direction of evidence-based policy that will promote the greatest public safety for all.

 

 

 

Housing Sex Offender Work Group Update

Earlier this month, the legislature held hearings on bills that would prohibit Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from living in public and subsidized housing or emergency shelter or motels.  The Network submitted testimony in opposition to these bills which you can read here.  The Springfield Republican also covered the issue in this article, quoting our resident (and work group) expert Dr. Laurie Guidry.

The Network also submitted recommendations for next steps to the Special Commission to Reduce Sex Offender Recidivism as follow-up to our May 28 presentation.  You can find that here.

We will meet next to continue our work on this issue on:
Wed., September 9
1:30 – 2:30 pm
Northampton Senior Center
67 Conz Street, Northampton