Report: State lags in classifying sex offenders | Boston | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

BOSTON — The state isn’t moving quickly enough to classify convicted sex offenders before they are released from prison, according to a new audit that determines the delays are putting the public at risk.

The report by State Auditor Diana DiZoglio, released Wednesday, found that the state’s Sex Offender Registry isn’t classifying some offenders before they are released from prison and is failing to conduct address verification checks on others convicted of sex crimes, among other allegations.

DiZoglio said the findings suggest the agency hasn’t fully implemented recommendations of a scathing 2017 audit. She pointed to a state law requiring the agency “to keep sex offender registry information up-to-date and accurate.”

“When our audit findings and recommendations are ignored, as was the case here, it’s not only a waste of taxpayer dollars but can be a threat to public safety,” DiZoglio said. “It is imperative that these matters be addressed immediately.”

By law, sex offenders must register with the state and update their information — including their address — annually. Sex offenders are classified as Level 1, 2 or 3, with those in the top two tiers considered most at risk of re-offending.

Sex offenders are required to register with the state agency and verify their information annually, such as changes to their home addresses and work.

Currently, the registry has records on at least 20,257 offenders, including more than 6,500 of whom have left the state.

The agency is required to classify sex offenders serving prison sentences at least 10 days before they are released.

But the auditors found that the agency failed to classify more than 100 sex offenders within the required timeframe and a majority of those individuals were released before they were listed on the state registry.

“As a result, the sex offenders’ names, addresses, offenses, and registration statuses were not posted to SORB’s website for level 2 and 3 sex offenders and were not otherwise available to the public,” the auditors wrote. “This could endanger children, people with disabilities, and the general public.”

In at least one case, a sex offender wasn’t classified until more than 700 days after the individual was released from prison, auditors noted.

The audit also found that while the agency has agreements with the state Department of Transitional Assistance and Department of Revenue to help verify sex offenders’ addresses, it didn’t perform verifications to ensure the data was accurate, auditors said.

In a response to the audit, the agency acknowledged the classification delays but said it takes time to determine an offender’s preliminary classification, give them an opportunity to challenge the recommendation, and determine whether the offender needs public counsel, among other issues.

“To put this into perspective, the process to finally classify an offender takes approximately 10 to 12 months to complete,” the agency said.

The agency said it is also “bound by evolving case law,” including a 2015 Supreme Judicial Court ruling that sets a standard of “clear and convincing evidence” to classify convicted sex offenders, and requires the agency to classify offenders in “reasonable proximity” to their release dates.

“Court decisions have had a significant impact on the Agency’s ability to comply with classification before release,” the agency said. “That is not addressed in the audit report.”

A 2017 audit by DiZoglio’s predecessor, Suzanne Bump, found the agency “lost track” of nearly 1,800 convicted sex offenders, among other shortcomings.

The report criticized the registry for lacking adequate procedures to ensure that sex offenders are promptly classified, and for not knowing the whereabouts of hundreds of convicted sex offenders.

“It is important that SORB work with our state and local public safety departments to properly educate the public about registered sex offenders living, working, or attending school in the commonwealth,” DiZoglio said.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected].

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