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Illinois Supreme Court Considers Sex Offender Park Ban

Brian Mackey/NPR Illinois

The Illinois Supreme Court has heard arguments over a state law that bans child sex offenders from public parks.

Illinois law already barred child sex offenders from approaching children in parks. But in 2010, the legislature made it even more restrictive, banning them from parks period — whether or not kids are present.

Katherine Strohl’s client was arrested walking his dog in a park in Bolingbrook — when no one else was around.

Strohl told the justices there’s a ton of park land in places people might not realize, meaning it criminalizes innocent conduct by barring them ...

“… from ever touring the Art Institute, running the Chicago Marathon, disembarking the Metra train at Millennium Station, or merely being in a public park and enjoying its amenities."

The attorney general’s office is defending the law, arguing the state has a legitimate interest in protecting children from sex crimes.

That prompted Justice Mary Jane Theis to ask whether there could be any limits on laws targeting sex offenders.

“Could the legislature say there is a risk of recidivism of sex offenders, therefore sex offenders may not enter public buildings …  churches? How far can the legislature go before it becomes irrational?"

The defendant’s attorney told the justices the law criminalizes innocent conduct.

The lawyer says a different law already made it illegal for a sex offender to approach a child in a park.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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