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State

Bill to raise penalties for assault on DCFS workers

State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon
State Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon

SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Measures to increase penalties for assaults against Illinois Department of Child and Family Services employees that were spurred following a caseworker’s death are seeing slow progress.

Republican Sen. Tim Bivins, whose district includes northern La Salle County, introduced a Senate bill in January that would make aggravated battery without a firearm a felony if it causes permanent disability or disfigurement to a DCFS worker, The State Journal-Register reported. The bill was revived last week and cleared a Senate subcommittee after lingering for months.

“I introduced Senate Bill 2272 to address the dangerous situations that Department of Children and Family Services employees often face when doing their jobs,” Bivins said. “I am working to fully address the valid concerns expressed by other lawmakers, and to craft a bill that will get past end-of-session pressures and find support in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.”

A House bill with similar language failed to clear a House committee. Some lawmakers expressed concerns over such bills, citing the need to address mass incarceration and calling for criminal justice reform.

“People don’t want to just be tough on crime, they want to be smart on crime,” said Ed Yohnka, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

Caseworker Pamela Knight, 59, was attacked in September while attempting to take a child into protective custody. The attack left Knight with a fractured skull, and she died in February.

Bivins has introduced another Senate bill that would require child protection investigators to be accompanied by a law enforcement official when visiting homes upon an investigator’s request.

Democratic Sen. Michael Hastings has sponsored a Senate bill that would provide lawmakers with quarterly reports on violence against employees of DCFS, the Department of Human Services, Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Corrections.

Both bills have passed the Senate and are in the House.

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