by Douglas Ankney
U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall of Chicago ruled that it is unconstitutional for Illinois to hold sex offenders in prison after their release date when they are so poor they cannot find a home placement that complies with state requirements.
Many sex offenders in Illinois complete their entire prison sentence “yet remain detained indefinitely” because they lack income and support to find a place to live that satisfies the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Parole agents examine potential home placements where sex offenders will reside. An excessive number of statutes and regulations apply. Sex offenders cannot live within a certain distance of schools, parks, and day-care centers. They may be barred from living near the place where they committed their crimes, such as a massage parlor or nail shop. They cannot live in the same apartment complex as another sex offender. They cannot live in a home where minors live or visit—a married offender cannot live with spouse or child. They can be barred from sites with pets, binoculars, cameras, video equipment, safes, gaming equipment, and devices that can access the Internet. And all of the halfway houses in Illinois reject sex offenders.
Judge Kendall said the state’s procedures discriminate against sex offenders who cannot afford to pay for a suitable place to live, a violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. She said the scheme punishes sex offenders because they would be homeless after their release, a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The judge will decide on a remedy after a hearing.
Adele Nicholas, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told WEBZ that possible solutions include, “[M]aking available different forms of free housing that people who cannot afford a place to live could go to.” That would include homeless shelters or halfway houses people could live in or enter work release.
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