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Illinois bill would allow three-time felons to be paroled

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(The Center Square) – A Democratic lawmaker on Thursday sought to advance a bill that would put an end to the practice where three-time convicted felons are denied parole. Other bills advanced that work to protect victims.

State. Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, acknowledged at a hearing of the Illinois House Judiciary – Criminal Committee that the State’s Attorneys Association is opposed to House Bill 1053, probably because they’re worried about resources being dedicated to habitual criminals, she said. However, she added, she’s actually looking out for taxpayers.

“Basically, to house these individuals as they age, they’re getting sicker and we’re paying for their medical bills. There has to be a balance here and I am looking out for the taxpayer,” Mayfield said. “Now, if you’ve got somebody like a John Wayne Gacy, lock them up and throw away the key and, I don’t know, bring back the death penalty.”

In Thursday’s committee, Democrats waited for more members to break a 6-6 deadlock Mayfield’s measure. The vote was to kill the bill. State Rep. Dennis Tipsword, R-Metamora, said one Democrat was going to vote with Republicans, which led to a pause in the hearing.

“They will wait until one of their members arrive who is on the committee but not here, or there will be a substitute member brought in,” Tipsword said.

Mayfield said waiting on another member to break a deadlock is common and is done out of courtesy.

“We do that on a lot of different bills and it’s just to make sure we’re able to pass a bill and continue conversations,” Mayfield said. “It’s a courtesy.”

Mayfield’s bill wasn’t killed, rather it advanced to the House floor for further action.

“We are going to meet with the state’s attorneys and have conversations with them about their concerns,” Mayfield said. “We have aging offenders that are costing taxpayers millions of dollars. Prison should be for individuals who should actually be there, not for those individuals who have committed crimes out of stupidity, mental health or drug usage. We want to make sure we are locking up the right people.”

Meanwhile, other legislators pushed for measures that aim to protect victims of crime.

House Bill 4241 would criminalize sexual conduct between students 18 years old or older and educators. Currently if an educator has sex with a student who is 18, that is not punishable under Illinois law.

State Rep. Amy Elik, R-Alton, is the sponsor of the bill and she has bi-partisan support.

“Students are staying in school longer now, certain students, for various reasons. It’s clearly a violation of professional ethics and they will lose their job for that, but it’s not criminal,” said Elik. “There was a local case in Granite City, Illinois, a couple years ago where a teacher wrote a tell-all short story about his abuse of an 18-year-old student where he waited until she was 18 because he knew he wouldn’t face charges for that.”

State Rep. Nabeela Syed, D-Palatine, sponsored House Bill 1168, which would end the practice of crime victims’ DNA being stored in a database that can later be used by law enforcement in an unrelated case.

“So, in fact, I think this bill will bring about more cases that are solved because victims will likely be more willing to submit their DNA to get those crimes solved, without the fear of their DNA being submitted into a database, used for reasons they don’t necessarily have purview over,” Syed said.

Elik and Syed both got their bills to head to the House floor. Both bills passed unanimously.