Illinois has become a very punitive state for convicted individuals. Over the past 10 years, with the tacit approval of state voters, our state politicians have passed many laws which have rapidly ratcheted up the severity level of punishments dealt out to those who commit a wide array of violent and even non-violent crimes.  Similar to most states, individuals convicted in IL currently face the possibility of extended term sentencing, three-strikes laws, and are receiving longer sentences  in general for both the serious and lesser crimes they commit. Yet, IL is now taking action to move beyond the accepted national trend of dealing out harsh punishment to offenders toward also punishing them for the rest of their lives.

Offenders in IL now face prospects that no one could possibly anticipate anywhere else:  the possibility that once they have served the term of their imprisonment that they will continue to experience a high level of public scrutiny and intrusion into the conduct of the remainder of their private lives under the guise of “protecting public safety”. In our opinion, it is time for IL voters to wake up and put the brakes on state politicians. IL residents need to examine whether the proposed laws now under consideration by the state legislature which will authorize the wholescale tracking of past offenders and place unnecessary obstacles in their path to social rehabilitation are really going to serve “the best interests” of the public.

House Bill 263 calls for Illinois State Police to create a murderer registry database available on the Internet of those convicted of first-degree murder. The information would include much more than the name, residence address, place of employment, school attended and a photograph of the offender. It would require those convicted of first degree murder and released by IDOC within the ten years before the passage of this law to provide:

“…a current photograph, current address, current place of employment, the employer’s telephone number, school attended, all e-mail addresses, instant messaging identities, chat room identities, and other Internet communications identities that the first-degree murder uses or plans to use,” (including) “all Uniform Resource Locators (URLs) registered or used by the first-degree murderer, all blogs and other Internet sites maintained by the first-degree murderer or to which the first degree murderer has uploaded any content or posted any messages or information…”

There are approximately 500 convicted first-degree murderers currently on parole and another 3,000 who will eventually be released from prison.

IL already now requires a plethora of personal, sensitive information about all past offenders who are released early by IDOC to be made public and listed for two years on a “Community Notification” page on the IL Department of Corrections website. While the information on the IDOC “CN” page is not as extensive as what is being proposed for released murderers, some released offenders have already had unwanted encounters with the public. Some state it is harder for them to find housing and jobs. Their families also suffer having their addresses listed for housing them.

A few voices are pointing out the drawbacks to the proposed murderers registry:

A Chicago Sun-Times editorial,  A registry for killers more harm than good, points out, that “…there is no compelling evidence that people who have committed murder are likely to commit murder again, especially after serving a 20- to 30-year prison term….and, …that the tougher we make it for ex-offenders to find and keep a legitimate job, the more likely they are to return to crime.” This is also the argument of State Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago), the lone vote in the IL House against bill 263: “…unlimited registries for ex-convicts increase the likelihood that they would commit more crimes.” (See, House OKs registry for killers).

Even, it’s legality is questionable, as the law will apply retroactively to individuals who were convicted and served their time prior to the enactment of the law. This will certainly open it to legal challenges as mentioned in the below article:

Would a registry for convicted murderers be legal?

It is an absurdity obvious to outsiders that at a time when IL is stretched to it’s fiscal limits and it’s prisons are overcrowded to the max; that IL stubbornly continues to insist on punitively punishing offenders and saddling state taxpayers with associated costs which they cannot afford to pay. Other states are using common sense in the effort to reduce prison populations and costs and help their offenders re-intergrate back into society to become productive citizens. IL will continue to be a backward state until it’s taxpayers take control of their politicians.

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