Illinois Voices and Civil Rights Attorneys Challenge Laws
On Monday, May 2, 2016, Chicago-based civil rights attorneys filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality—and efficacy—of several Illinois laws that create presence restrictions limiting where individuals convicted of certain sexually-based offenses can live, work, be present, or even approach. The lawsuit contends that these provisions violate fundamental rights guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
This lawsuit is the result of a year-long collaboration between Illinois Voices and the attorneys. Meeting regularly with the attorneys, Illinois Voices brought to the table its vast expertise and experience with current sex offender laws, legal challenges brought by other states, and detailed information about the effects of these laws on registered citizens. Using its network of over 1,000 supporters, Illinois Voices reached out to those on the registry to provide real-life experiences and stories, and to find suitable plaintiffs for the legal challenge.
To read more about our legal challenge, click here.
Good Intentions, Bad Results
Those who have been sexually abused have no sympathy for someone listed on a sex offender registry. Victims suffer lifelong consequences of that abuse and many have difficulty moving on with their lives. Society hears of this abuse and applauds stricter laws for those who have committed such crimes.
Those on the registry do not understand why lawmakers continue to pass harsher laws each year for a "past" crime - including crimes from 10, 15, or 20 years ago. Each year, harsher laws are passed further restricting where they can live or where they can go. Offenses continue to be added to the definitions of "sex offender" and "sexual predator" - including crimes with no sexual intent.
Lawmakers' response to public outcry resulted in laws primarily designed with stranger offenders in mind, despite evidence that individuals known by the victim were more likely to be the offenders of concern. The strongest argument in support of our current laws is the purportedly high recidivism rate among sex offenders. However, when actual evidence of recidivism is examined, there is a huge gap that exists between what is assumed and what the data actually shows. The truth is that most sex offenders do NOT re-offend. Current laws are focused on punishing and restricting people for past crimes, with no assessments being conducted to know if a person is at risk of re-offending. Meanwhile, sexual assaults continue and in most cases, the offender is someone known to the victim and in even more cases, the offender is not someone already convicted of a sex-based crime.
It's time for a change!
Current sex offender laws are not working. Reform is necessary to protect society, especially children, and to find a way to reintegrate those who have offended. Current laws are over-broad, over-inclusive, and do not distinguish between violent sex offenders and non-violent persons charged with sexually based crimes. Applying tough sanctions without regard to the actual danger posed by all convicted offenders actually makes us less safe. Law enforcement spends a great deal of time and money keeping tabs on those who pose little or no risk – keeping them from focusing on the high-risk offenders. Pouring scarce resources into monitoring all persons convicted of sexually based crimes means less money for programs to prevent sexual violence. It's time we stop passing "feel good" laws and start taking steps to accomplish the original goal of the registry . . . to protect society!
Illinois Voices fights for and supports laws that MAKE SENSE, ones that actually make society safer while protecting the constitutional rights of everyone involved. We believe laws should be passed based on research and empirical evidence of what works and what does not. "Feel good" laws based on public hysteria surrounding high-profile, but rare cases waste taxpayer dollars, violate the rights of individuals, and can actually detract from public safety.
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