The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently decided the case of John Doe vs. Police Commissioner of Boston, ruling on the issue of whether a 2006 state law barring sex offenders from living in nursing homes or similar long term care facilities was constitutional. The Court ruled that it was not.
By way of background, the 2006 law passed by the Massachusetts state legislature barred Level 3 Sex Offenders from living in nursing homes, infirmaries or other homes for the elderly or developmentally disabled. Sex offenders who lived in such facilities in violation of the law were then punished with imprisonment, ranging from 30 days up to 5 years for subsequent violations.
In this case, “John Doe” had been previously convicted of Massachusetts Sex Crimes, and the Sex Offender Registry Board argued that, even at his age of 65, his criminal history and suggested a “high risk of re-offense and high degree of danger.”
In the case of John Doe vs. Police Commissioner of Boston, the plaintiff in that case was a Level 3 Sex Offender who, had he been deprived the opportunity to reside in a nursing home or similar facility, would have ended up homeless.
In declaring this law unconstitutional, the Massachusetts Supreme Court reasoned that the law “presumes that all members of a class of sex offenders are dangerous to every community of rest home residents…[and] affords no opportunity for [the sex offender] to demonstrate that he represents no or a minimal danger to the community the law is intended to protect and makes no provision for the necessary balancing of the plaintiffs interest in protecting vulnerable elders from sexual assault.”
Now, the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled, sex offenders should be provided a hearing to rebut the presumption that he/she poses no or minimal risk to the community; and if denied the opportunity to reside in such a permanent facility, whether the person will likely become homeless and expose himself to harm.
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