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April 19, 2010

Serious talk of a broad drug dealer registry in Massachusetts

This interesting local article, which is headlined "Registry for drug dealers debated," suggests there is some serious support for a broad registry for certain drug offenders in Massachusetts.  Here are the details:

Legislation proposing to create a registry for convicted drug dealers is meeting with positive reviews across the state, according to state Rep. Demetrius Atsalis, who introduced the proposal last year.

Some law enforcement authorities say the proposal, modeled after the state's sex offender registry, could help police identify and track convicted drug dealers, who often bring drug-related violence into a community.  And some education professionals say it could better ensure safety through the school community.

"It would definitely be good to know that you're not establishing a bus stop directly outside the home of a narcotics distributor," said Arthur Dulong, assistant director of the state Secondary Schools Administrators Association, which reviewed the proposal at a recent meeting. "There could definitely be some benefits," echoed Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe, who is considering the matter. "It's worth looking into."

The proposal, which would not affect convicted drug users, is set to go to the House Judiciary Committee, though it's unlikely to go to a vote during the current legislative session, said Atsalis, who plans to reintroduce the matter next year.  But some legislators and human rights advocates contend such registries infringe on convicts' personal freedoms, and the proposal should be quickly dismissed.

Drug registries — Minnesota and Tennessee, among other states, have launched methamphetamine databases — can stigmatize reformed dealers, making it more difficult for them to find work or housing as they seek to rehabilitate, according to officials from the Massachusetts branch of the American Civil Liberties Union....

Atsalis has amended his proposal — designed in a three-tiered system, like the sex offender registry — to include limits on how long offenders will be registered, so long as they don't re-offend.... A cross the state, there were 6,086 arrests for the sale or manufacturing of drugs in 2008 — the most recent figures available, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation records.

The time limits included under Atsalis' proposal fail to address the broader question of the slippery slope, according to [Christopher] Ott, of the ACLU.  If it's implemented, a narcotics registry could lead eventually to a property crime or motor-vehicle crime registries, Ott wrote to the Times. "Do we want to create retroactive registries for anyone ever convicted of shoplifting ... or people who get a lot of speeding tickets?" he wrote. "It's wrong in principle."...

"The public has a right to know who are the convicted drug dealers," state Rep. Jeffrey Perry, R-Sandwich, said in reference to Atsalis' proposal. "But I would take it a step further.  The public has a right to know who all serious criminals are. ... If you had a neighbor who's been convicted four times of assault and battery ... wouldn't you want to know about that?"

April 19, 2010 at 07:49 AM | Permalink


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And the ironic thing is, the drug offender list has a lot more validity to it than the sex offender list from a perspective of public safety, yet Massachusetts is the only state I know of to have considered it.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Apr 19, 2010 10:02:06 AM

Who needs yellow pages? If you are a drug offender, that is.

Sex offenders are uniformly nasty, most would not want them around kids.
Drug dealers (and, perhaps, prostitutes) are another thing altogether. What better advertisement for your product than a conviction. And its free!!!

Posted by: Allan | Apr 19, 2010 2:49:43 PM

"Sex offenders are uniformly nasty...?" How fortunate you must be to personally know all 700,000 registered former sex offenders in the United States. How wise you must be to immediately comprehend that all 700,000 registered former sex offenders are "uniformly nasty." On the other hand, broad generalities, old wives' tales, voodoo, and unsupported, ignorant rumors are much less difficult to spout than rational thought.

Posted by: Mark # 1 | Apr 19, 2010 11:33:54 PM

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