The penalties for sex crimes in our state aren’t just limited to jail time and fines. You may find yourself on the sex offender registry. You could lose the rights that all Illinois felons have taken away. Perhaps worst of all, being convicted of a sex crime – or in some cases even just charged – can cost you your job and eliminate any chance that you might get it back.
To see that this is true, you only have to look at the example of Darin Brandt. Brandt, 48, was serving as a member of the Sandoval School Board, and was going up for re-election in April. Those plans were derailed after he was arrested and charged on three class X felony charges. Brandt was charged in late January on two counts of predatory criminal sexual assault, and one charge of criminal sexual assault.
Brandt is now in jail on a $500,000 bond, and with three class X felonies against him, it is likely he will spend his life in prison if he is convicted. Even if his lawyer manages to get his charges reduced so that he faces a shorter sentence, getting back into the real world will be extremely tough, and his criminal history will prevent him from getting a job working with children ever again.
Felony Offenders Have a Hard Time Getting a Job after Prison
Brandt’s situation is not unique in Illinois. The push to prioritize sex crime cases and punish offenders to the full extent of the law has made it incredibly difficult for anyone who has been convicted of a sex offense to get their life back on track after they’ve served their time and been rehabilitated.
It doesn’t stop with sex offenders, though. You’ve probably seen apartment or job applications that ask about people’s felony status. This box isn’t a huge deal if you have a clean criminal record, but once you’re a convicted felon, it can be one of the biggest obstacles to living a normal, productive life.
Why? Because checking that box usually means a quick rejection from whatever you’re applying for. In many cases, Illinois laws has even banned certain felons from getting jobs in the public sector, so admitting you have a felony on your record means an automatic “no.”
Many believe that this ban is counterproductive to the stated goals of the criminal justice system. Supposedly, we want convicted felons who have served their time to get back into society and find employment to that they can become contributing members of our nation. If that is true, though, why put laws in place that are literally designed to prevent this from happening?
These types of laws are part of the reason that half of Illinois’s prisoners return to prison within three years. Each time this happens, it costs Illinois taxpayers around $40,000.
Some Restrictions Are Being Lifted on Some Felons
Governor Rauner has pledged to reduce the state’s prison population by 25% before 2025. How is he going to do that? Part of his plan is to give felony offenders the chance to get back into the workforce. In fact, he has already passed two laws which will lift the old restrictions on felons who want to come back to the workplace.
One of the biggest changes the new laws bring is the ability for drug felons to work at schools or park districts. These ex-offenders will still have to complete the terms of their sentence and wait an additional seven years after that before they are eligible, but it still opens the doors for many individuals who are well past serving their time and would like employment in Illinois. Parks and schools may also begin to employ individuals who have been convicted of misdemeanor public indecency or prostitution offenses.
Another big part of these new bills is the ability for ex-offenders who were convicted of forcible felonies to get healthcare licenses. You need specific licensing to become a doctor, a nurse, or obtain similar positions in the healthcare field, and now more individuals who have served time can get licensure and apply for these jobs. “Forcible felonies” include the following offenses:
- First degree murder
- Aggravated battery
Ex-offenders who have been convicted of criminal battery against a patient are still restricted from obtaining a healthcare license. Ex-offenders will be eligible for the license five years after their sentence was completed, or three years after being released from jail.
Sex Crimes Felons Still Have to Wait For More Employment Opportunities
The bills passed by Governor Rauner give more opportunities to ex-offenders throughout the state, and will help to reduce Illinois’s recidivism rate and prison population.
The work isn’t over, though. You might have noticed that the above bills don’t address ex-offenders who were convicted of sex crimes. Unfortunately, sex offenders are still excluded from the types of jobs mentioned above as well as many others.
The fact that sex offenders will also be added to Illinois’s sex offender registry, where their status and criminal history will be available to the public, makes it even harder for them to live a productive life. If you have been charged, get in touch with an Illinois sex crimes lawyer immediately and begin to build your defense.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.