Illinois’ law keeps those with sexual convictions at risk for Covid-19 beyond release dates

By Jessica Pupovac . . . After serving 10 years in prison for criminal sexual assault, Marcus Barnes was counting down the days until his release date on Dec. 17, 2018.

He was planning on spending the holidays with his family and reconnecting with his daughter, who had recently graduated from high school and had started communicating with him again.

“With me being absent, she was a little resentful in the beginning, which I understand,” he said. “I worked really hard to really let her know that I love her.”

But when his release date finally arrived, he was told that the Chicago apartment he was planning on moving to was too close to a home day care facility. It would be a violation of housing restrictions imposed on him as a person on the sex offender registry, and, therefore, he would remain in prison.

“I kinda braced because my body just couldn’t move for a second,” said Barnes.

Barnes’ family scrambled to find alternatives. They say they found 11 different housing options for him, only to have each of them rejected by the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). And so, 16 months after his original release date, he was still at Graham Correctional Center when a guard there tested positive for COVID-19.

“I was a little terrified,” said Barnes. “I was trying to act like it was OK, but I was a little nervous.”

Barnes was one of an estimated 1,200 people who are kept behind bars in Illinois every year even though they’ve completed their sentences. It’s a problem under normal circumstances, but with COVID-19 spreading in prisons across the country and the state, it’s taken on new urgency. . . .

“Many of these people have safe and welcoming housing to go to outside of IDOC,” said Adele Nicholas, a civil rights attorney who has filed multiple cases against the state over this issue. “But the Illinois laws are so restrictive and impose so many hurdles to getting housing approved that IDOC won’t let these people go home even though they’re done with their sentences and are entitled to be released.”

Now, a coalition of 50 local and national criminal justice reform organizations, led by the Chicago 400 Alliance, is calling on Gov. JB Pritzker to ease conviction-based housing restrictions for the duration of the pandemic. The move would allow people who have completed their sentences to finally leave prison.

“We’ve been working on this issue for years,” said alliance coordinator Laurie Jo Reynolds, “but now it’s a matter of life and death.” . . .

Meanwhile, inside Illinois prisons, as of [the first week of July], at least 13 inmates had died after testing positive for COVID-19 according to IDOC. An additional 197 staff members and 324 inmates had tested positive . . .

Laurie Jo Reynolds is a member of NARSOL affiliate organization Illinois Voices.

Read the full piece here at WBEZ.

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    • #74241 Reply
      Tim in WI

      Illinois may be the most corrupted state in this nation. I was born an Illinois resident. I went to Illinois public schools in South Beloit. I and others were beaten by teachers with straps, size 13 shoe leather and with wooden paddles. Fifth Grade teacher used to tugg hard on our ears and drag us out of our desks onto the floor. I described the situation the early 1970’s.

      Today we see Illinois keeping convicts long after sentence expired. IMO, a prime example of the extension of Kansas v Hendrickson & the perversion of civil commitment. Illinois politics is dominated by the democratic left and associated unionized workers parties. Try to operate a non union manufacturing shop and you’ll find more than average scrutiny from OSHA, OLM, DHS, ICE, FLRA and a host of other alphabet soups. Illinois is incredibly difficult environment to operate business in especially for those not tied to selling products or services to gov itself. Given that presumption, jobs for released sex offenders are hard to come by, making a productive future the released a low probability. To say the costs of living in Illinois high is an understatement. So now we can see another motive besides public safety to keep these individuals.

    • #74258 Reply

      I thought Iowa stood for Idiot Out Wondering Around but it sounds like the Land of Lincoln is filled with a bunch of idiots. When someone is done serving their time and they have places they can live should be released. This is truly a disgrace of the broad brush that registrants are painted with and I’m for one is sick of this injustice. Shame on Illinois and every other state that does similar cat n mouse game!! I hope Hell has you because you have the darkest eyes.. the Devil’s eyes!!

    • #74334 Reply

      I’ve been saying this for the longest time, and I’ll keep saying it because it’s the Damn Truth: This is yet another example of sanctioned murder! The only way to beat this kind of BS, is to get Attorneys and Law Firms together that actually WANT to fight this kind of Systemic Injustice, and send them after the State Governments that openly allow for this to happen! Look People; it’s going to take a lot of MONEY, for any decent, aggressive law firm willing to fight for US, to go to war with such entities. I’m going to begin donating next week when My Social Security Early Retirement comes into my bank account. If each of Us would donate at the very least, $10.00, then NARSOL will have $10,000,000 dollars to get at least some law group or two, that would be willing to wage the kind of war we need waged! This is NOT going to just ‘Go Away’ People. They are hunting US down and want to kill US all. They don’t care about our families, children, and those close to or allied with US. Elected Officials HAVE to be stopped from creating these Draconian Laws and those currently in existence-which is The Registry incidentally-MUST be Eradicated from The Planet! Money Put such Officials into Office. Let’s start using it to take them OUT of Office, and get these Laws Erased Forever!

    • #74388 Reply

      I read the article carefully, nothing new there. They been keeping people that have to register in created tiers of their (Illinois Government) registry since my nephew was released from custody in 2006 as far as my nephew is aware of. Just to finally release them with their 10 year court ordered registration and (The Illinois State Police) find some reason to extend them to lifetime registration and take away the offender label and add predator as a designation like they did to my nephew. What Attorney Adele Nicholas’ comment needed to address was the continued legislative amendments that seem to make lifetime registration applicable to almost every tier of the Sex Offender Registry in Illinois. Why have tiers if in the end you plan to institute the same punishment that isn’t accepted as punishment by ISC until it’s accepted as punishment but the USC. My point is that I believe to effectively address the issues of this whole Sex offender Registry in Illinois, every sex offender in Illinois should address the contradictory sentence guidelines and issued sentences after the fact in court. Get them overruled and sue them over and over till these stupid legislative laws become too costly to them (Illinois Government and Operations) to keep then from trying to enforce these dreamed up torchers.

      I’m happy to say I just came into money and you may hear about my nephews case at some point. We as a family are trying to bring some of these issues plaguing him to court. To all those reading this, please be well and i will update you after we get to where we want to be.

    • #74471 Reply
      Alexander C. Miles

      just complying with the will of the general public!
      they don’t want chomos to be free ever.
      wake up and smell the coffee!

    • #76185 Reply

      I learned a long time ago that the first person who yell’s “chomo” is usually one himself! In fact, most of the violence in prison can be attributed to “chomo’s” trying to impress the gang leaders and “the fella’s” that they are not a hated chomo but somebody cool like they are. See? Another form of politics behind bars.

      As for these rules in Illinois, I agree it is a bunch of bunk. Doesn’t it take a judge to extend a sentence?? Apparently not. Once incarcerated, do you lose all of your rights? I think not. I agree with Silas that this needs to stop.

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