Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sex Offenders in Illinois: Will The Price Go Up?

Currently Illinois lawmakers are debating a bill that would increase the registration requirements for sex offenders, however, reformers argue that this increase would cost the state to much money.  Many other states have abstained to enact this federal law, because of the same monetary concerns.  

As of today, the majority of sex offenders in Illinois are required to register for 10 years, and this new bill would make it 15 years for less serious crimes and 25 years for the most serious crimes.  Also, if a sex offender fails to register themselves they would be condemned to a lifetime of being labeled a sex offender.  This particular bill is being pushed to comply with the federal Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006.  However, reformers believe that this bill would be nothing but costly.  Reformers also believe that this bill would actually decrease public safety by putting the efforts from police on to the wrong offenders, especially because many sex offenders do not reoffend.  As Illinois’ budget is currently in a stranglehold, reformers raise the issue of the cost of these tighter requirements for sex offenders.

Tonia Maloney, the director of Illinois Voices for Reform, looks at the study of the Justice Policy Institute, which estimates that the state of Illinois will lose about $20 million in instituting the Adam Walsh Act.  According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 15 states have implemented this new law, but most states continue to struggle with the new laws in would create, which would cost the states more money than they could afford.  A court in Ohio found that this new law violates the United States Constitution’s Eighth Amendment constraints of cruel and unusual punishment, as well as the 14th Amendment of the guaranteed right of due process.  
Although the level of compliance for sex offenders registering is very high, about 93%, the bill is still trying to be pushed through.  This bill not only creates a monetary issue for the state of Illinois, but it creates a long term problem for the offenders who have been otherwise compliant over the years.  The bill would allow a sex offender to petition for removal from the registry if the victim was between 13 and 17, and the offender was less than 5 years older than the victim.  However, the bill would only allow sex offenders to petition to be removed from the registry after they served 10 years on the registry, this exempts the offender from serving the additional 15 years that the new bill would tack on.  

Because sex offenses are a sensitive issue, the passing of this bill needs to be reviewed from a logical and fiscally responsible perspective.  The state of Illinois is already in a tight budget situation, and the bill being proposed would only hurt Illinois’ monetary status.  Therefore, before passing the bill, all avenues leading away from unnecessary spending needs to be explored.

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