SPRINGFIELD (AP) – Prison reform groups are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to stop a state practice forcing more than 1,000 sex offenders to serve parole behind bars because they have no appropriate place to live.
On Thursday, 17 advocacy groups delivered a petition to the high court on behalf of Johnny Cordrey, who had to stay in prison beyond his April 2013 release date.
“We stand strongly for the proposition that, in the modern day, the state of being poor, indigent or homeless is never valid cause for imprisonment,” states the petition by lawyers from the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law and the Uptown Peoples’ Law Center.
There are 1,100 sex offenders subject to a decade-old “turnaround” policy that bars paroling a sex offender if he or she doesn’t have housing approved by state officials.
Spokeswoman Stacey Solano said the Illinois Department of Corrections is following the law.
“If they are unable to find an approved host site, IDOC will continue to house them until an appropriate site is found or until their discharge date, as IDOC cannot keep an offender past that date,” Solano said.
Alan Mills of the Uptown Peoples’ Law Center said several state decisions have worsened the problem. State law barring two sex offenders from living in the same facility prevents two from living in the same apartment complex, no matter how big, he said. State transitional housing units accommodate only 26 paroled sex offenders and none is in the Chicago area where most parolees go after prison.
“Everyone is responsible for this problem, and we think the courts should do something to straighten it out,” Mills said.
Based on IDOC’s per-inmate annual cost, keeping the 1,100 sex offenders adds up to $2.4 million per year.
State officials have not filed a response to the petition.
Other advocacy groups signing the petition include the John Howard Association, the League of Women Voters of Illinois and the Illinois Public Defender Association.
Information from: The Pantagraph, http://www.pantagraph.com