Category Archives: Housing Sex Offenders

Housing People With Sex Offense Histories – 6/10/15

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories
June 10, 2015

In attendance: Elizabeth Bienz, ServiceNet, Colin Blair, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Michelle Billings, Franklin County Home Care Corporation, Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County Sheriff’s Department/Re-entry Program, Joe Critelli, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, Joe Glover, Franklin County Home Care Corporation, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Corrections, Ellie Harris, ServiceNet, Richard Hendricks, social worker, Madeline Johnson, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS –Homeless Services, Phyllis Lutskey, VA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Reverend Joe Tetherley, Hampden Correctional Center/United Church of Christ, Jordan Walder, UMass student

Pamela summarized the presentation before the Special Commission to Reduce Sex Offender Recidivism of May 28 (click here). The Commission chairs made clear that they were interested in hearing what we wanted them to DO to promote reform. At this point, there is no uniform “platform” organized by any statewide group, so we are in a position to think creatively and bring it back to others on the Commission (Laurie Guidry and Larni Levy).

After excellent discussion, we agreed on the following for our priorities:

  • Reform leveling system to reflect best practices;
  • Adopt state law/regulation that requires housing authorities and other state-funded housing providers to consider housing sex offenders on a case-by-case basis, relying on evidence-based indicators
  • Fund pilot projects that provide housing and support services for Level 3 sex offenders (e.g., half-way and step-down housing)
  • Issue directive to state agencies (e.g., DPH, DHCD) to explicitly incorporate in their policy language that, pursuant to evidence-based practices, public safety is best served by appropriately housing people with sex offense histories
  • Amend language on SORB website to explicitly state positive community outcomes and positive individual community re-integration through the provision of appropriate housing and employment.

We agreed we would produce a draft list of “indicators” to be applied in the case-by-case review (e.g., time lapsed since office, nature of offense, level of treatment and community support). Joe Critelli will provide the initial draft. Joe will also provide anecdotes demonstrating the application of the criteria.

Pamela will bring back these proposals to Laurie and Larni for further discussion and we as a group will continue this conversation via email over the summer.

We will come together in person again on: Wed., 9/9, 1:30-2:30 pm, presumably Northampton Senior Center, to be confirmed




Network Presentation to Special Commission to Reduce Sex Offender Recidivism

On May 28, Pamela Schwartz, on behalf of the Network’s Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories, presented before the statewide Special Commission to Reduce Sex Offender Recidivism.  It was a fantastic opportunity to bring the Work Group’s efforts to the forefront, providing our cumulative insight and inspiration to the 40 leaders in the room committed to statewide reform of policies impacting sex offenders.  Read more on the Commission here.  Read the Network’s powerpoint presentation to the Commission here.

We are especially grateful to Dr. Laurie Guidry, President of the MA Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers and a Commission member, who has provided pro bono guidance for our efforts since our work group formed in 2011.  We are also grateful to Larni Levy, attorney for Committee for Public Counsel Services, who welcomed us as a featured presenter on the “collateral consequences” of treatment of sex offenders.

We captured the data and our experience to advocate for evidence-based reform of the state leveling system.  We made it compellingly clear that denying housing to sex offenders only undermines our community’s public safety goals and our desire for offenders to positively re-integrate into the community.

We clearly established our Work Group as a resource that can provide innovative support in this reform effort.  We look forward to continuing to partner with the Commission in the work that lies ahead.

Congratulations to all involved that brought us to this day.  It is a slow road to change on this complex and difficult issue, and we can take pride in offering our leadership to make it happen.

Minutes of Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories – 4/16/15

Meeting Minutes – 4/16/15
In attendance:  Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County Corrections/MA DOC Re-entry; Jen Glover, Franklin County Home Care Corporation, Ellie Harris, ServiceNet, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Phyllis Lutsky, VA Medical Center, Pamela Schwartz, Network
Planning for Statewide Commission meeting:
Thanks to Laurie Guidry’s assistance, the Network has been invited to speak as part of a panel on the Collateral Consequences of Sex Offense Convictions before the Commission to End Sex Offender Recidivism on May 28, from 9 am to 11 am in Boston (location to be determined).  Our panel is being coordinated by the Committee for Public Counsel Services.
We will have approximately 20 minutes to speak.  Pamela will speak on behalf of the committee and other committee members are encouraged to attend.  Pamela shared her phone conversation with Laurie prior to this meeting (she could not attend today), and we agreed on the following outline:
  • background on the history of our effort – the Network, the naming of this issue by its partners, the evolution into a work group and its goals to expand housing options for sex offenders
  • a couple of personal stories of people with sex offense histories who pose no safety threat who we are unable to get housed
  • what we have accomplished thus far, e.g., 2 educational forums to faith and other leaders; targeted outreach to housing providers with training and discussion; development of criteria for housing sex offenders
  • what we have learned: housing providers will not house this population without state policy intervention that makes it less threatening to their liability to do so, e.g., language on the SORB website that refers to sex offenders as “dangerous”
  • our recommendations: over-arching ask is change leveling system so that it is evidence-based, driven by real risk, represents a policy that supports public safety as opposed to the opposite; smaller ask is to change language on SORB website.  Pamela will follow-up with Laurie to confirm additional “medium” asks, i.e., other changes that would promote “evidence-based” practice.
Pamela will also follow-up with individual committee members (Jen, Carl, Richard, Joe, Madeline) to collect personal stories to incorporate in the talk.
Carl thinks he may be able to make it to Boston; Pamela will keep everyone informed of meeting location and other details.
Pamela will draft hand-outs for the Commission and circulate them to our group for review prior to the meeting.
Next meeting date:
Wed., 6/10, DMH Haskell building, 1:30-2:30 pm


Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories – Minutes 12/19/14

Work Group To House People with Sex Offense Histories
December 19, 2014

In attendance: Elizabeth Beinz, ServiceNet, Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County Corrections/DOC Re-entry, Laurie Guidry, MATSA, Ellis Harris, ServiceNet, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network

We summarized our series of meetings with housing providers on the issue of housing people with sex offense histories and agreed that this engagement was a major step forward. While the Valley CDC’s board is meeting on the issue and HAP is in further discussion (Pamela will follow-up on both), the take-away message from all providers is that state policy needs to move on the issue in order for substantial movement to happen at the provider level. Tom Kegelman of Home City Housing focused in particular on the language of “dangerousness” pertaining to this population and how that language needs to be changed for housing providers to take the risk to house them. We looked further at the language and recognize there is some confusion around the use of the word in the SORB “welcome message” and leveling. However, we all agreed that precise wording aside, we need to shift public policy towards a “best practice” response to this issue and the population.

Towards that end, Laurie shared with us the work of the Reducing Sex Offender Recidivism Commission that was created last year (and began meeting this past September). Laurie was appointed to the Commission, along with SORB members, the DA, treatment centers, victim advocacy groups and others (great representation). Right now it is meeting almost monthly and hearing presentations from different constituencies to get informed. It is a promising vehicle for putting forward changes to the leveling system as well as language reform (e.g., “dangerous persons”).

We agreed that we should look first to attaching our work to the Commission’s efforts, e.g., attending public hearings (there is some discussion about holding a few across the state) and bringing to the Commission’s attention the housing crisis facing people with sex offense histories.

We also agreed that it is time to incorporate this issue and our agenda in our legislative meetings this winter/spring.

We agreed that our next step is to craft our mission statement to the Commission, laying out first who we are (the broad representation across the region) and our goals. Pamela and Laurie will work on this statement. Pamela will bring that statement to the Network Leadership Council for their review and hopeful approval, which will then provide a basis for our integration of this issue during our legislative meetings as well.

Laurie and I will draft this statement and distribute it to the work group for feedback in early January, in advance of the Leadership Council meeting on 1/21 and the Human Services Forum Legislative Breakfast on 1/23.

We agreed that we will determine our next meeting date after these two events happen and Laurie has learned more about the Commission’s meeting schedule. Pamela will communicate by the end of January to determine a February meeting date.