BOSTON – Massachusetts Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today testified about the need for a more active approach to enforcement by the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB). The remarks came as part of an oversight hearing by the Joint Committee on Public Safety & Homeland Security in response to a recently released audit of Sex Offender Registry Board by Bump’s office.
“At the most fundamental level, what is needed at SORB is a change of culture and mindset, from one that is passive—managing and processing information that comes to them—to one that is active, in which they seek out information about those who are out of compliance, innovate to overcome challenges they face, and take advantage of the tools and resources at their disposal to ensure they meet their mission,” Bump told the Committee.
Specifically, Bump called for Sex Offender Registry Board to establish and use data-sharing agreements with other executive branch agencies to find offenders that are out of compliance with their registration requirements. Additionally, she called on the agency to improve its processes to ensure offenders are classified before they leave incarceration.
“SORB has been entrusted with an important and difficult task – to classify and track sex offenders and to keep law enforcement, the public, and individual victims apprised of their addresses,” said Bump. “Keeping tabs on any segment of the population is not easy, especially when persons might want to keep their whereabouts unknown. But, when SORB does not meet the expectations of lawmakers and the public, it is not simply a story of a bureaucratic deficiency, it is a public safety failure.”
The audit, which Bump’s office released last month, found Sex Offender Registry Board did not have a current address for 1,769 convicted sex offenders, of which 936 had never been classified.
The audit also found that Sex Offender Registry Board did not ensure that all sex offenders were assigned a final classification before they were released from incarceration.
The Sex Offender Registry Board was established by Chapter 29 of the Acts of 1996 to comply with the 1994 Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, which requires states to create a registry of sex offenders and crimes against children.
Sex Offender Registry Board works with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure the proper registration of sex offenders in Massachusetts. It is the only entity tasked with classification of each registered sex offender.
Sex Offender Registry Board states its mission is “to promote public safety through educating and informing the public in order to prevent further victimization.
This is accomplished through registering and classifying convicted sex offenders by risk of re-offense and degree of danger and disseminating the identifying information of those offenders who live, work and/or attend institutions of higher learning in the communities of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
At the time of the audit, its registry contained records of 21,808 convicted sex offenders.
Of those, 13,127 lived in Massachusetts; 5,260 had moved out of state while another 3,421 were either incarcerated or had been deported.
The Board consists of seven full-time members appointed by the Governor.
A copy of Bump’s testimony is attached.