According to police reports, Saunders lured the boy to a secluded corner of the library and sexually assaulted him. The boy’s mother was nearby, working on one of the library’s computers, unaware of what was going on just a few feet away from her.
Saunders already had a prior conviction for attempted rape and indecent assault and battery on a 7-year-old, but served only four years in prison and thereafter was briefly confined to the Massachusetts Treatment Center in Bridgewater. A judge freed Saunders in 2006, despite pleas from prosecutors and testimony from three psychologists that he continued to pose a serious threat to children and was likely to re-offend.
Few crimes are as horrific as those perpetrated against a child, especially when the crime is of a sexual nature. Unfortunately, when it comes to protecting some of our youngest and most vulnerable residents, Massachusetts’ sex offender laws often fall short of those implemented in other states.
In response to this heinous crime, Florida lawmakers passed legislation mandating a minimum 25-year prison sentence and lifetime electronic monitoring for adults convicted of lewd and lascivious acts against children under the age of 12. Florida law also treats sexual battery or rape of a child under the age of 12 as a capital felony, punishable by death or life imprisonment without parole.
If a weapon is involved, the punishment is tougher, but still not as severe as in other states. A first offense carries a minimum 10-year sentence, while any subsequent offenses call for a term of 20-years-to-life in prison.
If enacted by the Legislature, child rape would be punishable by an automatic prison sentence of 10-years-to-life for a first offense and 20-years-to-life for any subsequent offense. If the child is under 12, the punishment would be 20-life for the first offense and 30-life for any subsequent offense.
House Bill 1688 would also establish tougher penalties for individuals convicted of creating, disseminating or purchasing child pornography. Additional penalties would apply if the child is under the age of 14.
Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Justice confirm the need for lifetime registration and closer monitoring of sex offenders. A recent study involving inmates currently serving time in a state prison for rape or sexual assault found that two-thirds of their victims were under the age of 18. Fifty-eight percent of these prisoners had committed these crimes against children who were 12 or younger.
According to the Justice Department, many sex offenders are repeat offenders. In fact, those who have served time for sexual assault are seven and a half times more likely than those convicted of other crimes to be re-arrested for sexual assault.
The Senate Republican Caucus has been trying to get a vote on Jessica’s Law, most recently two weeks ago when the Senate debated a bill to revamp Massachusetts’ child welfare system and strengthen the state’s child abuse laws, but the amendment was ruled out of order. Despite the questionable ruling, I remain committed to bringing this issue up for a vote this session.
Thirty-three states have already adopted Jessica’s Law. Massachusetts should not wait until another innocent child is victimized before it does the same.
Sen. Richard Tisei represents the 3rd Middlesex District, which includes Wakefield.