On at least 601 occasions in the first three months of 2014, men who appeared at the Chicago Police Department (CPD) to register as sex offenders were turned away, because police were too busy to register them. On numerous occasions, the would-be registrants were later arrested for failing to comply with the state sex offender registration law. At least 190 men await trial in the Cook County Jail on failure to register charges. Several of them claim that they tried to register but were turned away.
Records obtained by a Chicago TV station, WBEZ, indicate that while state law requires the police to register sex offenders, on some days CPD has turned away dozens of them. On January 14, 2014, no one was turned away; but on February 14, 2014, 31 were refused for reasons listed as “capacity”; on the 5th, 27; the 6th, 26, all purportedly for the same reason. On those days and others, officers informed people who had waited for hours at Police Headquarters that they might as well go home because the registration office was “too busy” to register them all. The officers then wrote down the names of the men and informed them that they could be subject to arrest for failure to register.
Bruce Harley attempted to register on February 13, 2014 but was turned away along with at least 21 others. On March 21, 2014, when approached by CPD officers for being in an area “known for narcotics activity,” officers ran his name and found that he had failed to register. He was thereafter arrested and, as of this report, has been in jail for several months, where it costs taxpayers some $52,000 a year per cell.
A local lawyer, Patrick Morrissey, said one former client who tried to register in July 2011 sat in jail until April 2014. Morrissey said he was outraged to learn that the problem was so prevalent. “By the City of Chicago refusing to register people and causing them to walk the streets unregistered subject to arrest, is unconscionable,” he said. “You know it doesn’t only harm these people who have to register and who are subject to arrest, but it harms the public because it detracts from what the law is about, about keeping track of people.”
This article originally appeared in Prison Legal News in August 2016.