Illinois To Track Sex Offenders For 40 Years After Release

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    Convicted sex predators in Illinois would have to wear a tracking device for 40 years after being released from prison under a bill advanced Wednesday by House committee.

    Sponsored by Rep. Jim Watson, R-Jacksonville, the proposal would enable the Department of Corrections to pinpoint at all times the locations of the state's most violent or dangerous sex offenders.

    "There is no worse crime than what some of these individuals do to society," Watson told the House Criminal Law Committee. Its members voted unanimously to advance the bill to the full House.

    Current law enables the state to monitor paroled sexual predators from a minimum of three years up to the rest of their lives, depending on the recommendations of a Department of Corrections review board.

    At a cost of between $5 million and $7 million a year, Watson's new sex offender tracking program would adopt an "active tracking" system, where corrections officers would constantly monitor certain offenders' locations. The current system, which uses "passive tracking," enables officers to follow offenders' movements, but they are not continuously monitored, said corrections department spokesman Sergio Molina.

    Sex offenders wear ankle collars that use the global positioning system, a technology originally developed by the armed forces but now common on cars, boats and even in handheld gadgets. GPS-equipped devices receive radio signals from a network of satellites in orbit high above Earth, which allows them to determine their exact location.

    Molina said that because Watson's proposal would require predators to be tracked for so long, part of the program would provide for corrections officers to replace ankle bracelets as technology improved.

    Of the 1,100 sexual offenders now on parole in Illinois, the new system would apply to about 120 who are currently monitored, Molina said.

    Illinois has a total of about 18,000 registered sex offenders. The database is public and available online at www.isp.state.il.us/sor/.

    Watson said his proposal was inspired by the story of Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old Florida girl killed last year after being kidnapped, raped and buried alive by a registered sex offender. Watson grimaced as he told the committee that Florida parole officers "just lost track" of Jessica's killer two weeks before her murder.

    The high-profile story has inspired dozens of states to pass or consider laws inspired by Jessica; her father has lobbied legislatures in Florida, South Carolina, Kansas and Ohio.

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/ne...D4E22430EE1F6BEC862571100019A609?OpenDocument
     

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