SPRINGFIELD – To help safeguard Illinois communities from sex offenders, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed several important pieces of legislation today that will strengthen the state’s efforts to keep close tabs on sex offenders following their release from prison. The laws signed today will better protect children and the public by tightening restrictions and supervision of sex offenders. The cornerstone of the package, House Bill 2386, creates a lifetime supervision program for the most serious sex offenders.
“There’s nothing more vile than sex offenders. We have to do everything in our power to keep them away from our children and our communities. That’s why I’m signing tough new laws that protect us from sex offenders, including lifetime supervision for sex offenders and making sure that sex offenders are kept away from children and the elderly. I want to commend the sponsors of all of these bills, and I want to especially commend Attorney General Lisa Madigan for her efforts to pass legislation requiring lifetime supervision for sex offenders,” said Governor Blagojevich
“This package of bills is a truly significant step forward in the protection of women, children and communities from sex offenders,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Whether it is requiring lifetime supervision for sexual predators who continue to pose a risk to communities or ensuring that sex offenders and other convicted felons be identified and properly managed in nursing homes, this series of bills breaks new ground in ensuring that families and communities are safer.”
Madigan continued, “Additionally, whether a sex offender is in the community or in a nursing home, protecting our families from sex offenders requires more supervision, more notification and more communication. This legislation provides for all of those.”
Madigan initiated several of the proposals in the package the Governor is signing, including a proposal for lifetime supervision for sex offenders, a proposal to protect residents of nursing homes from sex offenders and other convicted felons and a proposal that will better equip law enforcement to crack down on non-compliant sex offenders.
Sponsored by Rep. Careen M. Gordon (D-Coal City) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) and authored by Attorney General Madigan, House Bill 2386 creates the possibility of lifetime parole supervision for some of the highest-risk sex offenders convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, aggravated criminal sexual assault or criminal sexual assault, on or after July 1, 2005. Currently, all sex offenders released from prison serve a parole term of a maximum of five years under the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), where they are closely supervised by a parole agent who has the authority to return them to prison for exhibiting high-risk behaviors. Under this new law, these three categories of offenders will be mandated from a minimum of three years to a maximum of lifetime of parole supervision as determined by the Prisoner Review Board.
The law also provides for the Prisoner Review Board to decide the conditions of parole, how long it will last and what action will be taken if the inmate violates the conditions. In cases of a parole violation, the inmate can serve up to two years in prison, unless it’s a new crime. Parole will also prepare progress reports every 180 days after the offender’s release from incarceration regarding the offender’s adjustment and compliance with conditions of parole as well as participation and progress in sex offender treatment. The progress report will be submitted to the Prisoner Review Board, the chief of police and sheriff in the municipality and county where the offender resides and is registered. The law also states that supervising officers will receive specialized training in the supervision of sex offenders.
With the Governor’s signature, Illinois joins 13 other states in the nation that have some form of lifetime supervision laws.
“This bill sends a strong message to sex offenders living in Illinois. We will keep close tabs on you to make sure you do not threaten our children or our communities,” said Sen. Harmon.
“This bill will keep our communities safe from the high-risk offenders and I would like to thank the Attorney General for her work on this issue and the Governor for signing it into law,” said Rep. Gordon.
“The Illinois Department of Corrections supports this legislation that strengthens supervision of the state’s most dangerous sex offenders,” said IDOC Director Roger E. Walker Jr. “A major focus of the agency is strengthening our monitoring of sex offenders through the Governor’s Operation Spotlight Parole Reform Program. Through the Governor’s plan, the agency has been able to hire more parole agents than ever before, and launch the state’s most aggressive parole sex offender surveillance program in state history. Partnering with the Attorney General to develop a lifetime supervision program is the next logical step in those efforts, and communities will be safer because of it.”
HB 2386 is effective immediately.
Gov. Blagojevich also signed a number of other bills designed to toughen laws against sex offenders in an effort to protect Illinois communities and increase child safety.
· Strengthening sex offender registration requirements: Sponsored by Rep. James D. Brosnahan (D-Oak Lawn) and Sen. Edward D. Maloney (D-Chicago), House Bill 4030 makes several changes to the Sex Offender Registration Act, including requiring sex offenders to give their employer's telephone number when registering with local law enforcement. This law also requires juveniles who are convicted of a crime that, if committed by an adult, would be considered a sex offense, to register as an adult sex offender within 10 days of turning 17. It also requires child sex offenders to sign a statement acknowledging they are aware that they are not allowed to live within 500 feet of a school or park. HB4030 will go into effect January 1, 2006.
· Keeping better track of sex offender movements: Initiated by the Illinois Sex Offender Registry Team and sponsored by Sen. Kirk W. Dillard (R-Westmont) and Rep. James H. Meyer (R-Naperville), Senate Bill 1234 requires sex offenders to notify law enforcement within five days of no longer having a fixed residence. As long as there is no fixed residence, sex offenders must now report weekly in person to the appropriate law enforcement entity, stating where they have resided for the past seven days. The definition of sexual predator has also been changed to include a person who is convicted of, or attempts, criminal sexual assault regardless of the age of the victim. SB 1234 goes into effect Jan. 1, 2006.
· Regulating the number of sex offenders that can live in one place: Sponsored by Rep. Kevin Joyce (D – Worth) and Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D – Chicago), House Bill 350 prevents anyone who has been convicted of a sex offense or who is on probation or parole from residing at the same address or in the same apartment or condominium building as anyone else that is known to have been convicted of a sex offense or is on supervision for a sex offense. Transitional housing facilities that accept and house sex offenders, though exempt from the one sex offender per address rule, must be licensed by IDOC and provide security 24 hours a day. Various notifications of the location of these housing facilities are also required. HB 350 becomes effective immediately.
· Preventing sex offenders from preying on children during the holidays: Sponsored by Rep. Bill Mitchell (R – Forsyth) and Sen. Kirk W. Dillard (R - Westmont), House Bill 121 provides that as a condition of probation, conditional discharge, parole, or mandatory supervised release, a sex offender may not participate in a holiday event involving children under 18 years of age, such as handing out candy on Halloween, dressing as Santa Claus during the Christmas season, or wearing an Easter Bunny costume around Easter. HB 121 is effective immediately.
· Establishing rules regarding sex offenders in nursing home care: Sponsored by Rep. James D. Brosnahan (D – Oak Lawn) and Sen. Edward D. Maloney (D - Chicago), House Bill 2062 amends the Nursing Home Care Act to provide that if any resident of a nursing home is a registered sex offender, or is serving a term of parole, mandatory supervised release, or probation for a felony offense, then any federal, State, or local law enforcement officer, including county probation officers, are allowed reasonable access to that resident in order to confirm compliance with the requirements of the Sex Offender Registration Act and/or applicable terms of parole, probation or mandatory supervised release. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) drafted new emergency rules that provide extensive detail as to how the requirements should be implemented, provide a process and protocol for the identification of registered sex offenders in nursing home care, as well as the subsequent reporting of their location to IDPH. The new emergency rules will be filed on Monday. After filing the emergency rules, the Department will begin developing and then submitting general rules that can be made a permanent part of Illinois Administrative Code.
“IDPH established these emergency rules because the agency sees this as a grave threat to the public health, safety and welfare of residents – namely registered sex offenders and other felons living in nursing homes, often without the knowledge of the nursing home, other residents, family members and visitors,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “Because of the extreme nature of this potential threat, the Department believes that these rules must be adopted in a shorter time frame than is normally allowed.”
- Limiting sex offender access to schools: Sponsored by Sen. Righter and Rep. Jerry L. Mitchell (R – Rock Falls), House Bill 23 amends the Criminal Code of 1961 by limiting when a child sex offender is allowed to be present at a school. They will only be allowed at a school when they are the parent or guardian of a student attending the school and they are present at the school to attend conferences with school personnel in discussing the child’s education, evaluating the student’s performance and placement, and other school issues affecting the child. The principal must be notified of the child sex offender’s presence. The bill also allows a child sex offender to enter a school that is being used as a polling place for the purpose of voting. HB 23 becomes effective immediately.
- Prohibiting sex offenders from loitering anywhere near schools: Sponsored by Rep. Lisa M. Dugan (D - Kankakee) and Sen. Debbie DeFrancesco Halvorson (D – Chicago Heights), House Bill 2077 prohibits a child sex offender from loitering anywhere within 500 feet of a school building or real property comprising any school, rather than just prohibiting loitering on public ways within 500 feet of a school building or real property comprising any school. HB 2077 is effective immediately.
- Mandating strict punishments for exploitation: Sponsored by Sen. Dan Cronin (R - Lombard) and Rep. Paul D. Froehlich (R - Schaumburg), Senate Bill 1897 provides that a person charged with a Class A misdemeanor violation of sexual exploitation of a child may not receive a disposition of supervision. SB 1897 is effective immediately.
· Retaining records about crimes against children longer: Sponsored by Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D – Carlinville) and Rep. Jim Watson (R – Jacksonville), House Bill 172 ensures records are retained for 50 years regarding egregious crimes against children, including child abuse, sexual penetration of a child, sexual molestation of a child, sexual exploitation of a child, torture of a child or the death of a child, as defined by the Department of Children and Family Services. HB 172 becomes effective immediately.
These new laws build on the Governor’s ongoing efforts to reform the management of parolees. This Fiscal Year, which began on July 1st, the Governor launched one of the most aggressive sex offender management plans in state history through the expanded supervision of released sex offenders. The FY 2006 budget included funding to hire new parole agents and support staff to expand monitoring of sex offenders. With the additional funding and agents, the Illinois Department of Corrections will implement a GPS, or Global Positioning System, to use satellite technology to track movement of parolees. The department is in the process of identifying 200 high-risk sex offenders to be outfitted with an ankle bracelet and a transmitter. The device will send a continuous signal to a parole agent's computer, allowing the officer to track a sex offender's movements. The GPS program, when joined with the Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Unit established last year, will provide for more parole agents throughout the state who will specifically monitor sex offenders.