As Chair of the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), I often have the opportunity to travel around the Commonwealth. In the course of my travels, I frequently hear from members of the public, including concerned parents, the victim community, and public officials, as well as various partnering criminal justice agencies, and am reminded of how very public our role is in keeping families safe.
SORB is one tool with a distinct, but important role in the criminal justice toolbox to help protect the public. In essence, SORB provides to you, the public, an important piece of information – the level of risk and danger a sex offender poses to the community and information about that offender.
Until the SORB law passed, it wasn’t easy to get this information, but the Legislature and Courts decided that the law was a way for the public to protect itself by making them aware of this class of criminals. The law requires sex offenders to register and we consolidate their information into a large database available to law enforcement. We then classify offenders by level, and then disseminate that information to police. You can look up Level 3 offenders by name, county, city or town, zip code and incarcerated status on our public website www.mass.gov/sorb. Level 2 offender information is also available by going to your local police department and completing a request form.
Because of our name, many people incorrectly, but understandably assume that we also supervise and manage sex offenders, but we do not perform that function. Under the law there are other agencies such as the Probation Department, and the Parole Board, who on a case by case basis, may supervise individual sex offenders once sentenced or released from incarceration.
Many people also question why, if a sex offender is a high risk, he or she can be on the street, or live near a school, park or playground. The answer is that here in the Commonwealth, a Court decides whether an offender will serve a sentence for their sex offense, how long they must be incarcerated and whether any supervision and conditions should be imposed. The reality is that sex offenders live in our communities so go to our website and check it often.