As the case of a convicted child rapist who is set to be released from prison continues to make headlines, Gov. Charlie Baker said Wednesday that he plans to file legislation shortly to increase penalties for serial sex offenders.
Wayne Chapman was sentenced in 1977 to serve 30 years in prison for the rapes of two boys and has been civilly committed in prison as a sexually dangerous person since his criminal sentence ended, WBZ-TV reported. Chapman is now slated to be released from the civil commitment after two psychologists ruled that he is no longer a danger.
“First of all, I think people with track records like his who are convicted of the crimes like his should never get out. I mean, that’s kind of my view,” Baker said during an appearance on WGBH’s “Boston Public Radio” on Wednesday. “I don’t understand why his sentence was limited to sort of 30 years plus or minus, and then you move to this civil commitment status.”
Asked by co-host Jim Braude whether there is anything the governor or his administration could do to prevent Chapman’s release, Baker said he thinks there is not.
“From our point of view, I don’t believe we have options available to us with respect to Wayne Chapman but I certainly think this case raises a number of issues about the current practice and the state of the law and we will file legislation shortly that significantly enhances the penalties for somebody like him who is a serial sex offender,” he said.
Baker said his legislation will also include recommendations on how to change the process of releasing someone like Chapman to include having a jury or judge consider whether the prisoner to be released is a danger to themselves or others.
He said his administration is “not sure about this one yet,” but told Braude that he envisions his bill will also include some kind of monitoring of sex offenders who are released from being civilly committed.
Baker said his understanding is that neither of the two psychologists who determined Chapman is no longer a danger think that “his behavior or his attitude about any of this has changed at all.”
“They’re basically making a judgment call, based on his physical condition, that he is no longer physically able to be a danger. I gotta tell you, that’s a pretty weak read in my opinion,” he said. “And I think because of that we need a process where you need to go back to court and get in front of either a jury or a single justice of some kind before you’re simply let go.”
The governor on Wednesday also said his administration is talking with the Legislature and legal experts about the possibility of seeking a revival of the death penalty for people convicted of killing a police officer.
Baker has voiced his support for capital punishment for the killing of a police officer in the past and during Wednesday’s radio appearance was asked by a caller to explain his support.
“There just aren’t a lot of jobs, it’s so hard for me to think of ones where people literally every day potentially walk into a life-threatening situation where someone can just take them out in what would seem to be the most routine circumstance of that particular job,” he said. “For that reason and that reason only, I believe that for people who take these people out, they deserve to be held to a very high standard and for me that standard would be death.”
Baker said he understands “there are huge constitutional issues associated with this” and said his administration has been talking with the Legislature and legal scholars about a possible bill.
The governor said he has “a particular point of view here and I get the fact that it’s not one that’s shared by everybody and I’m OK with that.”
“We get the fact that it is a tall order and a high hill to climb but I just can’t think of anybody else who — literally every single day — puts themselves in a position where they’re vulnerable to this sort of thing and they deal with people who in many cases don’t care, and that bothers me,” Baker said.