Group wants incest loophole in Illinois law closed

Monday, May 19, 2003

BELLEVILLE, Ill. -- A national children's rights group wants a loophole closed in Illinois law that allows more lenient sentencing for people who commit incest.

The group called Protect: National Association to Protect Children is trying to eradicate such legal loopholes around the country and it is pushing for a national law requiring sentencing for incest be on par with other sexual crimes.

In Illinois, a person convicted of child molestation faces up to 30 years in prison, but can get probation if the child is their own under an exception added by Illinois lawmakers in 1981.

Madison County prosecutor Kyle Napp told the Belleville News-Democrat that she has never had a judge sentence probation unless the state's attorney's office agreed.

But St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert Haida said judges have given probation in cases where his office wanted imprisonment.

"We've had cases where we have asked for jail time, and it's not a case where the judges always follow our recommendations," Haida told the newspaper.

Illinois isn't the only state with such a loophole, but Protect director Grier Weeks said Illinois is a special case because the sentencing exception wasn't a holdover from antiquated law.

Carolyn Hubler, director of the St. Clair County Child Advocacy Center, said keeping families together is no longer enough reason to let a molesting parent off the hook.

"I understand the stress of the nonoffending parent, but any kind of safety plan would want the perpetrator away from the child," Hubler said.

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, also supports the bill.

"A predator, regardless of whether he's related to the victim, is still a sexual predator," Hoffman said. "The victim suffers as much, if not more, if the individual is related."

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