Letter to the Editor



Governor Baker’s bill renews focus on dealing with sex offenders

Updated December 19, 2019, 12:01 a.m.

Push for Draconian policy is based on false assumptions

We regret the stance the Globe has taken in support of Governor Baker’s bill seeking mandatory life sentences for those convicted of certain serious sexual offenses and radical changes to our civil commitment procedures. The governor was responding to the hysteria erupting a year and a half ago when Wayne Chapman, a man in his 70s with many medical problems and who uses a wheelchair, was released from civil commitment.

The Supreme Judicial Court in May unanimously concluded that there was no evidence to warrant changing the present process of civil commitment. In fact, a Globe article last year found that between 2015 and 2017, 49 people who had been civilly committed after serving their full sentences were finally released from preventive detention after being cleared by a pair of psychologists. At that point, only one of them had gone back to prison, and that was for stealing a car, not a new sexual crime.

Civil commitment is an extraordinary measure. People who have completed their sentence can be put behind bars not for what they have done, but for what people think they might do. People can be wrong, and no better example can be found than that of Bill Canavan. A level 2 registrant, he was released from civil commitment and established the Boston Release Network, which helps others released from civil commitment to register with the police and to find shelter, employment, and whatever else can help prevent them from reoffending.

We believe the governor’s bill is inhumane, expensive, and regressive in its call for new, Draconian policies that are based on false assumptions. Money put into education, prevention, and treatment would be better spent.

Ros Winsor

Paul Shannon


This letter was cosigned by 19 others on behalf of the Sex Offender Policy Reform Initiative, a project of the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition.

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