SPRINGFIELD — Illinois’ sex offender registry, which now includes more than 32,000 people — most of them men, though some women, as well — has rapidly expanded since its first iteration in 1986.
Then, it included four qualifying crimes. Today, there are more than 30 crimes that trigger mandatory registration, including some repeat misdemeanor offenses.
In recent years, policy makers and advocates, both for offenders as well as victims, have been raising questions as to whether the registry, and the ever-increasing rules around it, really makes the public safer, or causes more societal harm than it does good.
In 2018, a bipartisan task force recommended Illinois take a far more nuanced approach to its registry, providing for risk assessments that allow law enforcement to focus limited resources on monitoring and more robust treatment options for people who are at high risk of re-offending.
The task force also recommended that those who pose less risk automatically fall off the registry after a set period of time. In fact, one of the key findings of the group is that the registry has not lived up to its mission.
“While public opinion surveys show that the public favors a freely available sex offender registry … research has not established that registries have any effect on the sexual crime rate,” the task force wrote in its final report.