SPRINGFIELD — Illinois already bans sex offenders from handing out Halloween candy and getting too close to a park or school. The law requires sex offenders to report moves or when they change jobs and, now, convicted offenders could face prison time if they fail to tell the state when they lose a job.
But will people be safer because of it?
State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, said local cops and prosecutors asked him to push for the new law, SB2912.
“A detective in Pontiac, an assistant states’ attorney in McLean County and another assistant (states’ attorney) over in Champaign County all brought the same issue to my attention,” Barickman said, “which makes me think this is an issue that is real and legitimate.”
Barickman realizes a lot of plans aim to “get tough” on sex offenders, but he characterizes his proposal as a clarification.
“Most states’ attorneys and law enforcement people would (say) they’ve been interpreting the law that if someone changes a job or lost a job (they’d have to register),” Barickman said. “But a judge decided that is not true. If you lost your job, that didn’t qualify for a change.”
Whether a clarification or a new law, Ed Yohnka, director of communications for the ACLU of Illinois, said the result is the same.
“We’re layering on these (laws) in a way that doesn’t really increase our safety and security,” Yohnka told Illinois Watchdog. “And that’s the problem.”
It’s unclear whether the cases brought to Barickman included more than a simple registration violation, and Barickman said he wants to maintain a balance while giving police and prosecutors the tools they need.
Yohnka sees it differently.
“The larger issue, in many ways, is the difference between being tough on crime and smart on crime,” Yohnka said. “We all acknowledge there are dangerous people out there, and we want them kept away from society. But we want that done in a fashion that is really smart.”
Benjamin Yount is a reporter for Illinois Watchdog, a project of Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting new media journalism.