SOPRI is strongly opposed to this knee-jerk legislation.
June 6, 2018
To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives,
Wayne Chapman has been behind bars since the late 1970s. Part of that time was spent
serving a series of criminal sentences for raping children. When he finished serving his criminal
sentences, the Commonwealth was able to continue to hold him in custody through a civil
commitment process for sexually dangerous persons. He is on the verge of being released from
that civil commitment despite the fact that experts disagree as to whether he remains so
dangerous that he should remain in custody.
Ordinarily, we would resolve this dispute through a trial. However, in 2009, the Supreme
Judicial Court ruled that our civil commitment statute does not permit a trial if two of these
experts, referred to as “qualified examiners,” whom the superior court orders to examine the
person agree that he no longer remains sexually dangerous.
Chapman’s case illustrates two serious issues with our justice system. It is clear that we
must reform the court process for reviewing the commitment of sexually dangerous persons so
that there is a full hearing before a sexually dangerous person is released. But we must also reexamine
the sentences Chapman received in the 1970s for raping children. Serial rapists of
children should be sentenced to life in prison and not to shorter terms that give them the chance
to be released and reoffend.
I am submitting for your consideration “An Act Relative to Child Predators.” This
legislation addresses both of these issues. First, this legislation reforms our civil commitment
process so that any disagreement among experts will result in a trial at which a judge or jury can
hear all of the evidence about whether a person remains sexually dangerous and make a fully
informed decision regarding release. Second, the legislation establishes a mandatory minimum
sentence of life without parole for someone who uses force to rape two or more children, or uses
force to rape a child after being convicted of a previous sex offense.
While these reforms will not impact Chapman’s case, they will help keep child predators
in custody in the future. I urge your prompt and favorable review of this legislation.
Charles D. Baker