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SAFEGUARD OUR CHILDREN ACT UNANIMOUSLY PASSES STATE SENATE

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015SPRINGFIELD, IL – Wards of the state who run away from private facilities would not fall through the cracks under a bill that passed the Illinois State Senate 55-0 Wednesday.

Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart and State Sen. Bill Cunningham, D-Chicago, offered the bill, SB 1775, after a Chicago Tribune investigation found some of the privately run facilities under contract with the state’s Department of Children and Family Services were not notifying anyone after youth ran away from the facilities and were sexually assaulted or lured into prostitution.

The Safeguard Our Children Act would create a duty to report any child missing more than 12 hours to DCFS and law enforcement. A missing person's report would be filed. It would also require the operators to draw up a Plan of Care for any child scheduled to temporarily leave the facility for more than 24 hours. The Plan of Care would include information such as the location of the visit, contact information for the person the child is visiting, and the date when the child is expected to return to the facility.

“Our most vulnerable children deserve our close attention, mentoring and firm, but compassionate, direction,” Dart said. “Negligent operators who employ family members to watch television while teens walk out the door into the arms of abusers should be cut off. The bill will give state authorities and law enforcement notice in time to rescue more of our at-risk youth.”

The state pulled all of its youth from one facility earlier this year after Sheriff Dart’s Child Protection Response Unit investigated and found four of the nine girls on the roster missing and presumed to have run away. They also learned that a 14-year-old girl tried to return to the facility and was turned away by staff. Sheriff’s Police located her.

Also Wednesday, the State Senate voted 55-0 in favor of Dart’s “Rocket Docket” legislation to move low-level non-violent offenders quickly through the Cook County Jail.

SB 202, The Accelerated Resolution Court Act, would establish a pilot program for non-violent offenders charged with retail theft under $300 or criminal trespass to have their cases resolved within a month. If their case has not been disposed of in a month, they will be released from jail on their own recognizance.

The bill is aimed at people who lack the resources to make even a low bail therefore they sit in jail at a high cost to taxpayers, while the causes of their repeated arrests are not addressed. It often involves people with mental illnesses who have multiple arrests for the same petty crimes.

The bill would not apply to any of the serious defendants at the Cook County Jail awaiting trial on charges of murder, sexual assault or other violent crime.
Both bills now move to the state House of Representatives.

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