Lawmakers Ponder Locking up Sex Offenders for Life

A rape victim urged state lawmakers Thursday to mandate life sentences for all serial sexual predators, saying that the legislation they were considering did not go far enough.

Avani Kalra, NECIR Summer Journalism Student, Student at Francis W. Parker High School, Writer at The Parker Weekly, Former Staff Writer/Copy Editor, Present Editor in Chief at The Weekly

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A rape victim urged state lawmakers Thursday to mandate life sentences for all serial sexual predators, saying that the legislation they were considering did not go far enough.

  The proposed legislation only mandates life sentences for sexual predators who physically coerce their victims. But Melanie Perkins, who was raped by Wayne Chapman, said that predators can easily subdue their victims without any force.

“He never had to use force,” she said of Chapman, 70. “He would prey on us, the poor kids, living in Lawrence Housing. He would tell us we were worthless; that nobody would miss us if we were gone. He raped hundreds of kids that lived there – dozens of my friends, my brother. He’s suspected in the disappearances of four of my friends.”

In 1977, Chapman was convicted of luring two young boys into the woods by pretending to be an innocent man searching for a lost dog, and then sexually assaulting them. Chapman received thirty years in prison for this offense, but has admitted to molesting as many as 100 young girls and boys according to court filings.

When his thirty years ended, prosecutors fought for a civil commitment to keep Chapman locked up, arguing him to be a “sexually dangerous person.” That civil commitment kept him behind bars for ten more years.

This new legislation was proposed  in reaction to the debate over whether to release Chapman, who scheduled to be let out of jail last month.

Two psychologists declared that Chapman was no longer a danger to society, setting his release for the following day. But Wendy Murphy, an attorney for Perkins and other victims, stopped his release, citing a state law that requires 14 days advance notice for victims when a sexual predator is set for release.  

While behind bars, believing that he would soon be released, Chapman committed another sex crime. “He masturbated in front of the nurses while still incarcerated,” Murphy said. “He was re-arrested.”

Further investigation revealed that Chapman has committed this offense more than once previously while in prison.

Chapman is being held under new charges, meaning that he will not be released from prison any time soon.

The possibility of his release enraged many Massachusetts residents, pushing Gov. Charlie Baker to propose a new bill involving the punishment of sexual predators. “There is no way this would have come to the attention of the Governor without the outcry that came from the people,” Murphy said.

Murphy thinks Baker’s bill needs to be more  comprehensive. “

Why should you have to use force on a child to deserve life behind bars?”…“Why isn’t it enough to rape two children?””

— Wendy Murphy

The second problem with the bill, says Murphy, is that it doesn’t address longstanding flaws in release procedures. “Who knows how many times people have been released by two qualified examiners, without a court process, since 2009,” she said.

Murphy believes the current bill to be a good starting point, as the committee presented to at Tuesday’s special hearing has the power to make amendments.

“I don’t know whether we will get what we want, unfortunately,” Murphy said. “The sex offender lobby in Massachusetts is very powerful, and the victim lobby is not. We don’t have a lot of money, and they do.”

If the bill is referred out of committee, Murphy expects that new sexual predator legislation could become law this winter