(The Center Square) – Following the stabbing death of a social worker in central Illinois, a bipartisan effort is now underway at the statehouse to enhance penalties for such crimes.
Criminal penalty enhancements at the statehouse have been taboo with majority Democrats focused on criminal justice reforms. For years, Republicans had attempted to get enhanced penalties for those attacking social workers.
Such a measure from Republicans passed the House during a previous General Assembly, but never advanced out of the Senate. That was after the murder of Department of Children and Family Services employee Pam Knight in Dixon in 2017.
Following Tuesday’s stabbing death of DCFS employee Deirdre Silas, Gov. J.B. Pritzker put out a joint statement with Democratic and Republican lawmakers supporting Senate Bill 3070.
“These professionals do everything in their power to protect children, so it’s time for the legal system to treat them like the first responders they are,” Pritzker said. “I’m working with the General Assembly to enhance the penalties for adults who harm DCFS workers to align with the protections for other first responders – in honor of Deidre Silas, in honor of Pam Knight, in honor of all our DCFS employees, and in honor of all who live in service to others.”
State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Sterling, who pushed for penalty enhancements after Knight’s murder, said she’s proud to co-sponser SB 3070.
“As a caucus, we have been fighting for this legislation since the murder of DCFS social worker Pam Knight in 2018,” McCombie said in a statement alongside state Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur. “This bill is the first step to provide justice for those that serve to protect the most vulnerable amongst us.”
Under the proposed legislation, DCFS employees would be granted the same protections as police, firefighters, private security employees, correctional officers, and community policing volunteers, the news release said. The legislation would allow for a person who causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to a DCFS employee to be charged with a more serious Class 1 felony.
In the case of Silas’ murder, Sangamon County State’s Attorney Dan Wright announced first degree murder charges against Benjamin Reed and filed a petition to deny bail.