Sex-offender program criticized

Date: 2006-01-21

Felons treated in Devens

Mary Jo Hill
Worcester Telegram & Gazette

DEVENS - U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry and Rep. Martin T. Meehan, D-Lowell, are calling for a high-profile sex offender and others like him imprisoned at the Federal Medical Center to be moved to a maximum-security prison, and they want more information about a sex-offender program at the center.

Both wrote that they are extremely concerned the public is just finding out about this program after it has been operating for more than a year.

"The program was just brought to our attention this week after working with Masha Allen, a 13-year-old girl whose adoptive father sexually abused and starved her for five years while posting hundreds of pornographic pictures of her on the Internet," according to the Jan. 19 letter addressed to Harley Lappin, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Her adoptive father, Matthew A. Mancuso, is being held at the center in Devens after being convicted of federal Internet child pornography charges, according to the letter. He also was convicted on Pennsylvania charges for repeatedly raping Masha, for which he will serve 35 to 70 years after his federal term, according to the letter.

"We, and many others, are extremely concerned that until hearing about Mancuso, we were unaware that the Federal Medical Center at (Fort) Devens had a sex offender treatment program," the letter states. "Additionally, we are incredibly distressed that a child predator such as Mancuso, who will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, is being `treated' in a medical facility."

Mr. Mancuso "and others like him" should be put in a maximum-security prison "to serve hard time as opposed to receiving treatment in a medical facility," the letter states.

"It's stunning to think that just two weeks ago, Masha stood in Boston pushing for passage of legislation to protect victims of sexual abuse, unaware that just 45 minutes away her abuser was sitting at Fort Devens," the letter states.

The letter refers to a recent article that ran recently in the Boston Herald about Mr. Mancuso and the lack of awareness about the sex-offender program at Devens.

Traci Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said that generally the bureau does not notify communities about these programs unless there is a great impact on the community.

This program is in a secure facility, so she is not quite sure if it was targeted as having that kind of impact.

"This is a group of inmates that would never have any contact with the Devens community," she said.

The sex-offender management program started in 2004 and is housed in the medical center at Devens - not in a minimum-security work camp next to the center, she said.

The medical center houses inmates with all security levels, ranging from minimum to high security, Mrs. Billingsley said. The center has a mission of providing specialized or long-term medical or mental health care.

Inmates at the medical center are subject to the same requirements as other inmates at secure prisons, she said. They are confined, under continuous surveillance, kept behind double-secure fencing with razor wire, have their mail monitored and undergo random pat searches, among other things, she said. Inmates in the sex-offender program receive even more monitoring because of their background, she said.

While Mrs. Billingsley could not confirm that Mr. Mancuso was in the sex-offender program, she said he was serving a 188-month sentence, coming to Devens on April 14, 2004, with a projected release date of Jan. 17, 2017.

Mrs. Billingsley would not comment on the letter from Mr. Kerry and Mr. Meehan, saying as a matter of practice the bureau does not comment on congressional correspondence.

Ayer Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski said certain selectmen expressed concern when the news broke about the program. Selectmen were concerned about what was perceived as a lack of communication, he said.

Town officials have since learned from the police chief that there is a protocol in place at Devens in case a prisoner escapes, Mr. Suhoski said. And, he said, police chiefs from Ayer and Harvard participated in October 2004 in a mock escape. The Ayer chief said the coordination was impressive, with the FBI included in the effort.

Sex offenders are found in just about every community, and it is important to know where they are located, Mr. Pacheco said.

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