More interesting ideas out of the state of Illinois today: a lawmaker there is proposing to create a registry for convicted murderers. In the style of Megan’s Law–which many states passed to launch websites that show histories, photos, and locations of released convicted sex offenders–Rep. Dennis Reboletti authored “Andrea’s Law” which would do the same for convicted murderers. According to the Chicago Daily Herald:
“The bill was prompted by the release of Justin Boulay last November after he served 12 years of a 24-year sentence for the first-degree murder of his ex-girlfriend Will at Eastern Illinois University in downstate Charleston in 1998. He was found to have lured Will to his apartment with the promise of a birthday gift and strangled her with a telephone cord…
Reboletti added that, for now, it was in part intended to correct inequities in murder sentences. Boulay committed the crime in 1998 before truth-in-sentencing laws took effect that ended the policy of ‘day-for-day time’ that permitted him to get out on good behavior after serving just half his sentence. Since then, convicted murderers have been subject to mandatory sentences with no possibility of parole.”
Apparently, other states, like Hawaii and Connecticut, are considering or have considered similar registries. But are they legal?
In California, at least, there’s been an ongoing debate over the legality of sex offender laws that affect those who’ve already been sentenced for their crimes. Namely, if a law is meant to punish someone, almost as part of their sentence, it may have to pass before the person commits the crime (or at least, is convicted of the crime). It’s an issue of retroactivity–the idea that a person can’t be given a punishment that, at the time, wasn’t on the table. On the other hand, if the registry requirement enhances public safety without actually creating a new punishment, legally, retroactivity is less likely an issue.
In this case, the lingo coming out of Illinois seems pretty punitive. Take Reboletti’s statement to a Chicago ABC affiliate on the proposed law:
“I think it’s gonna serve as a deterrent, as a watchful eye over these individuals, that they are not going to be able to sneak back into the community and begin their lives.”
Does it also have a strong public safety component? Is there a benefit to expanding the crime registry to include all violent crimes? Those arguments seem to be less in the news right now, but are sure to be debated as this bill goes forward.