9/16 Meeting (Approved 10/8)

Special Commission to Reduce the Recidivism of Sex Offenders
September 16, 2014, 10:15 am
State House, Room 348

Meeting Minutes

Materials provided at Commission Meeting:

Agenda for 9/16 meeting

Proposed Work Plan

Commissioners Present:

Chair, William N. Brownsberger, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary

Robert Kinscherff, Ph.D., Esq., Associate Vice President for Community Engagement, Office of the President, and Teaching Faculty, Doctoral Clinical Psychology Program, Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology

Larni Levy, Esq., Committee for Public Counsel Services

Nancy Connolly, Psy.D., Program Director, Mentally Ill/Problematic Sexual BehaviorProgram of the Department of Mental Health

Raymond Knight, Ph.D., Gryzmish Professor of Human Relations, Department of Psychology, Brandeis University

Laurie L. Guidry, Psy.D., President, Center for Integrative Psychological Services, Inc., and President, Massachusetts Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers

Andrea Cabral, Secretary of Public Safety and Security

Maureen Gallagher, Director of Policy, Jane Doe, Inc.

Commissioners Absent:

Kathy Betts, Assistant Secretary for Children, Youth, and Families

Edward J. Dolan, Commissioner, MA Probation Service

Saundra Edwards, Chairperson, Sex Offender Registry Board

Others in Attendance, Including Designees of Commissioners:

Dianne Fasano, Deputy Commissioner of Probation, designated by Commissioner Edward Dolan for meeting

Robyn Kennedy, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Children, Youth, and Families, designated by Assistant Secretary Kathy Betts for meeting

Steven O’Brien, Superintendent, Massachusetts Treatment Center

Maria Piccillo, Board Member, Sex Offender Registry Board

Tammy Mello, Office of Children, Youth, and Families

Ellyn Lazar-Moore, Worcester County District Attorney’s Office

Cheri Rolfes, Legislative Director, Executive Office of Public Safety and Security

Anne Johnson Landry, Committee Counsel and Policy Advisor, Office of Senator Brownsberger


The Commissioners and attendees took turns introducing themselves.

The Commissioners then reviewed the charge of the Commission (below) and decided certain changes would have to be made to the charge by way of legislation. The Commissioners decided that a due date for the Commission’s work should be changed, as it has already passed. The Commissioners decided that they should work with a timeframe of a year and that amending legislation should remove the part of the charge requiring the Commission to develop authorized risk assessment protocols for sex offenders and should also add a representative of Parole to the Commission.

Commission’s Charge: Section 208 of Chapter 38 the Acts of 2013

SECTION 208. There shall be a special commission established pursuant to section 2A of chapter 4 of the General Laws to investigate and study the most reliable protocols for assessing and managing the risk of recidivism of sex offenders. The commission shall develop the Massachusetts authorized risk assessment protocols for sexual offenders including, but not limited to, any special assessment protocols for juveniles, female offenders and persons with developmental, intellectual, psychiatric or other disabilities. The commission shall assess the effectiveness and necessity of sections 178C to 178P, inclusive, of chapter 6 of the General Laws and the guidelines promulgated by the sex offender registry board, pursuant to section 178K of said chapter 6, as those sections relate to: (i) determining a sex offender’s risk of re-offense; (ii) degree of dangerousness posed to the public; and (iii) the general public’s access to information based upon the offender’s risk of re-offense and the degree of dangerousness.
The commission shall consist of: 2 members of the senate, 1 of whom shall serve as co-chair; 2 members of the house of representatives, 1 of whom shall serve as co-chair; the chairman of the sex offender registry board or a designee; the commissioner of probation or a designee; the commissioner of mental health or a designee; the secretary of public safety and security or a designee; the secretary of health and human services or a designee; and 6 persons to be appointed by the governor, 3 of whom shall have expertise in the assessment, treatment and risk management of adult sex offenders and familiarity with the research on recidivism of sex offenders, 1 of whom shall have experience in the assessment, treatment, and risk management of juvenile sex offenders and familiarity with the research on recidivism of juvenile sex offenders, 1 of whom shall be a representative of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, and 1 of whom shall be a representative of the committee for public counsel services. The commission shall convene not later than 60 days after the effective date of this act.
The board shall submit a report, detailing the results of its investigation and study, any recommended legislative or regulatory action and a timeline for implementation to the governor, the president of the senate, the speaker of the house of representatives and the clerks of the house of representatives and senate not later than 180 days after the effective date of this act.

Discussion of Commission’s work plan, including any research items and solicitation of public input

In discussing the Commission’s work plan, Secretary Cabral recommended that the Commission come to an understanding of what we are doing in Massachusetts today to reduce the recidivism of sex offenders. Dr. Knight recommended that the Commission review reliable and empirically valid protocols, and Dr. Guidry suggested the Commission look to evidence-based practices. Dr. Kinscherff recommended that the Commission articulate a set of principles and that the Commission include the Department of Youth Services in the Commission’s conversation. Senator Brownsberger recommended that the Commission’s work include a review of and recommended response to the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision striking down lifetime community parole.

Senator Brownsberger presented a proposed work plan. The Commissioners felt the proposed 6-month timeline was too short but agreed on the other general elements of the plan: presentations by Commission member, hearing(s) by invitation to learn from officials and experts about what is happening in the Commonwealth and what could be improved; public input hearing(s); further discussion and consideration of recommendations; drafting and voting on recommendations; and drafting and submitting a report (by fall 2015).

For the next meeting of the Commission, the Commissioners decided, based on a proposal by Dr. Kinscherff, that Drs. Knight, Guidry, and Kinscherff should present to the Commission. Later in the meeting, the Commission decided that, although Dr. Kinscherff would not be present at the next scheduled meeting, the presentation should still move forward for that meeting.

Secretary Cabral pointed out that definitions will matter to the Commission- particularly how the Commission defines “recidivism.” Dr. Kinscherff suggested we contrast [efforts to prevent] the recidivism of adults with the recidivism of juveniles.

With regard to public hearings, Dr. Knight remarked that public input will be necessary for transparency. Dr. Kinscherff mentioned that it will be important to hear from providers. Secretary Cabral indicated that we should learn about any treatment that is working. Ms. Mello suggested that the Commission hold two hearings, with at least one in Western Massachusetts.

Ms. Gallagher suggested that key documents be shared with members of the Commission. Ms. Landry indicated that she would send out documents she has received, and any she will receive in the future, to the members of the Commission.

Senator Brownsberger suggested he might file a placeholder bill for the Commission in January 2015, as the Commission will not have completed its work by the regular legislative filing deadline. Secretary Cabral suggested that the Commission may require subcommittees of the Commission as part of its work.

In discussing the Commission’s process, the Commission agreed, based on Senator Brownsberger’s proposal, to keep the process as transparent as possible, using a website to disseminate the Commission’s work [now created at CommissionOnSexOffenderRecidivism.com]. The website should include any presentations given or received by Commissioners. The Commission agreed to be transparent about which offenders are included in the scope of its charge. Senator Brownsberger indicated he would try to get the website up and running by the next meeting. Ms. Landry reminded Commissioners that the Commission is subject to the Open Meeting Law and cautioned against exchanging emails that could constitute deliberations in violation of the Open Meeting Law.
Confirmation of next steps

Meeting monthly is feasible for most Commissioners. The Commissioners agreed to get through all presentations before the holidays and that meeting from 9-11 am would work well on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday (but not every 2nd and 4th Wednesday) of the month.

The Commission agreed to meet next on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 from 9-11 am.

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Website maintained by the Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger, Chair. Contact Anne Johnson Landry with any questions at annejohnson.landry@masenate.gov or at 617-722-1280.