January 28, 2017

Prison sentences served, but Illinois sex offenders stay locked up

1-28-17 Illinois:

Paul Murphy was originally sentenced to three years of probation after his conviction in 2011 on charges of aggravated child pornography.

Murphy is impoverished and homeless. And after he was found violating his parole by sleeping in the doorway of a church, Murphy was ordered to serve his sentence in prison.

He finally was approved to be released from custody in March, 2014, into the state’s mandatory supervised release program.

But because he is homeless and cannot find a place to live that satisfies the myriad of restrictions and regulations, Murphy, 61, remains in prison. And unless he somehow finds housing that satisfies the state’s strict limits, Murphy is doomed to spend his life in prison regardless of what his original sentence had been.

Murphy is one of seven inmates who have turned to the federal courts, contending that Illinois is improperly keeping sex offenders in prison even after they have served their full prison sentences — with the possibility they might never be freed.

Their class action lawsuit charges Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Corrections Department Director John Baldwin with improperly keeping sex offenders in prison by imposing conditions for their housing that make it impossible to win release.

“We’re going to fight vigorously to try to change some of the circumstances to which these people are subjected,” said Mark Weinberg, co-counsel for the prisoners.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections said the state is still readying its response to the lawsuit, and a comment would be premature.

At issue are both the restrictions of the statute as well as the Department of Corrections interpretation. Sex offenders cannot live nearby parks, schools or day care centers. They cannot live in a condominium or apartment or trailer park where another convicted sex offender lives, with the one exception a halfway house. But there are no halfway houses in Illinois that accept sex offenders.

In the case of Murphy, the lawsuit details his plight. He has no money nor family members or friends who can help, and cannot earn money while locked up. He applied for housing at a halfway house in East St. Louis that, the lawsuit said, was the only one in Illinois that accepted sex offenders.

He was told there was a five-year wait at the time he applied; the facility has since closed. And so, the lawsuit contends, “Murphy faces imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections for the rest of his life.” ..Continued.. by Camille Darko

No comments: