Madison County approves fee to help abused children

News-DemocratJanuary 15, 2014 

— People convicted of criminal charges in Madison County will now pay an extra fee to help abused and neglected children.

The Madison County Board unanimously approved a $10 fee Wednesday that will help fund an advocacy program for abused and neglected children. Court-Appointed Special Advocates or CASA of Southwestern Illinois has been providing services to Madison County since 2012. The program provides a trained advocate to work on behalf of a child who has been abused or neglected and is now caught up in the system.

In most places, counties help pay for the costs of CASA's nonprofit services. Prior to Wednesday's vote, however, Madison County did not fund the program.

The measure established a $10 fee added to the fines paid by those convicted of some misdemeanor and felony charges. It is estimated to bring about $10,000 a year to help fund CASA's services.

County Chairman Alan Dunstan said he was in favor of the fee as long as it was not applied to traffic fines, which would increase costs and diminish funds sent to other municipalities. However, he said he was pleased with the final structure, including a requirement of accounting from CASA.

He said the measure also received approval from Madison County Chief Judge Robert Hylla, Circuit Clerk Mark Von Nida and State's Attorney Tom Gibbons, which he felt was necessary to bring it to the attention to the county's judiciary committee.

"The harmful impact of serious crimes on children in our community makes the work of CASA volunteers an exceptional enhancement to our justice system," Gibbons said. "Because the acts of many individuals involved in the criminal justice system inflict harm or abuse on children, whether directly or indirectly, those individuals should help bear the cost of providing this important service for children."

The measure takes effect immediately. CASA will start receiving funds in three to six months, Dunstan said.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 239-2507.

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