SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — Governor J.B. Pritzker announced on Thursday his support for a bill that will increase the penalties for people who commit crimes against Illinois Department of Childhood and Family Services employees.
Pritzker’s support for the bill, known as the Knight-Silas Bill, comes days after DCFS caseworker Deidre Silas was stabbed to death during a home visit in Thayer. The bill is also named in honor of Pam Knight, who was attacked in 2017 by the father of a boy she was attempting to take custody of. Knight died from her injuries four-and-a-half months later.
“Our DCFS workers dedicate their careers to our most vulnerable children, living in pursuit of the belief that every child should have a safe place to call home,” Pritzker said. “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. 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.”
Currently, people who commit physical crimes against DCFS employees are only charged with aggravated battery if they cause great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement or if the battery happened in public. Under those circumstances, aggravated battery is a Class 3 felony.
Under the new legislation, aggravated battery of a DCFS employee would be considered a Class 1 felony and DCFS employees would be granted the same protections as police officers, firefighters, private security employees, correctional officers and community policing volunteers. It would not be the extent of the harm or injury that allows the aggravated battery charge to be brought, but rather the status of the victim as a DCFS employee.
“The hard work and commitment of the employees of the Department of Children and Family Services help keep children safe, provide brighter futures for many families and strengthen communities across our state,” said DCFS Director Marc Smith. “They deserve the same support and protection as other frontline workers in Illinois. Our workers are sometimes called upon to enter challenging situations, and we believe this legislation will help ensure their safety and deter acts of violence against those who have dedicated their lives to helping others.”