Adam has an intellectual disability, however, and functions with the mind of a 10-year-old. He would starve on his own, Nesteikis says. She and her husband had to move away with him, and spent $150,000 to find and maintain a home that meets another requirement of Adam’s probation: he must live at least 500 feet away from school property and daycare centers. His curfew, Nesteikis says, became their curfew.
“The dream is gone,” Nesteikis said. “We’re living in our own little prison.”
It’s a fate shared by many parents of people with intellectual disabilities and sexual convictions across the country. Because the children often can’t understand and comply with the rules and restrictions of their sentences, it falls on their guardians to suffer the financial, social and psychological burdens of the crimes.
Representatives from the Illinois State Police, which maintains the Sex Offender Registry, did not respond to a request for comment on the consequences of its restrictions for parents with children who have intellectual disabilities. In its website, the Illinois Department of Corrections says the sex offender registry was created to make information about people convicted of sex offenses easier for the public to access.
The office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul also declined to comment, but its website states that he is working to increase the supervision of sex offenders, as part of a commitment to community safety. Indeed, many of the restrictions lawmakers added to most sex offenders convictions across the country were aimed at protecting the community.
Parents of children on the registry feel the cost to their families is disproportionate, though. Many have to empty their savings accounts to keep up with the related fees.
Penny, 65, is the mother of a son with intellectual disabilities who is on the sex offender registry after he was convicted of sexual assault. Her son functions as a 10-year-old child, too, she says. She has asked that her last name, her son’s first name, and the state in which they live not be mentioned, as she fears that people will attack her son due to the nature of his crime. Studies conducted in various states over the years indicate that people on the sex offender registry commonly become victims of harassment, physical assault and property damage.
Penny estimates she has paid almost $137,000 to keep her son in compliance with the sex offender requirements. Like Nesteikis, the brunt of that expense went to the purchase of a new house. But the place gives Penny little comfort.
“If a daycare opens up within 500 feet of us, we have to move because my son can’t live alone,” she said. “It’s very much like I am on the registry.”