December 22, 2011

Many Sex Offenders Not Paying New Fee

"Increase the Penalty" is that what the fee really is?
12-22-2011 Illinois:

MARION -- Illinois started implementing a new fee this year on registered sex offenders. It went from $10 a year to $100. But not many sex offenders are paying up. The change to the state's Sex Offender Registration Act was meant to help offset the cost of paperwork every time an offender has to register. But many local law enforcers will tell you even if the state raises the fee to a $1,000, it still wouldn't make a difference.

It's a list not too many people think about, but almost every town has a few registered sex offenders. As of January first this year, a change in Illinois law was supposed to increase the penalties of sexual crimes by raising the mandatory annual registration fee from $10 to $100.

"There's a lot of paperwork, there's a lot of administration costs associated with sex offenders. Those fees, those costs should be paid by the sex offenders, as opposed to honest, to decent taxpayers," says representative John Bradley.

But not all law enforcement agencies are actually administrating the new fee. The Williamson County Sheriff's Office is still considering it. The Mt. Vernon police department will start in January, a year late. Departments that do charge more, like Marion and Carbondale, say they end up waiving it for many offenders anyway.

"The majority of sex offenders are either low income, or on disability, unemployed or living paycheck to paycheck like everybody else. With the fee increasing, it's been a hardship on everybody," explains Christina Burns, Marion police department's records coordinator.

Burns says only about five to ten percent of the city's sex offenders can afford to pay the $100 annual fee. She admits it's difficult for them to hold down a job due to their situation.

"If they can't maintain their job, they're certainly not going to maintain or have accessible money to pay a fee that went from something that could be construed as quite miniscule to 100 dollars a year."

And Burns says there doesn't seem to be an easy fix for the problem.

If a sex offenders can't afford to pay, police still have to place him or her on the registry and cannot place them back in jail for financial hardship. Those deemed sexual predators have to register for life. Low level sex offenders only have to register for 10 years. ..Source.. by Fanna Haile-Selassie and Jared Roberts

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