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Pritzker supports increasing penalties for crimes against DCFS workers

The fatal stabbing of Deidre Silas could push forward the Knight-Silas Bill, giving DCFS workers the same protections as first responders.

CHICAGO, Illinois — Among the elected officials showing support of a new bill for increased protection efforts towards Illinois Department of Child and Family Services workers is Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The governor announced his support for the legislation Thursday, Jan. 6, two days after DCFS worker Deidre Silas was stabbed to death during a home visit in Thayer, Illinois. 

Authorities arrested 32-year-old Benjamin Reed who is charged with first degree murder and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Silas' death comes more than four years after Whiteside County DCFS worker Pam Knight was beaten and killed during a welfare check in Milledgeville on Sept. 29, 2017. Knight's attacker, Andrew Sucher, signed a plea deal for 21 years in jail with no parole.

RELATED: Dixon man says justice was not served after man who beat his wife to death gets plea deal

Once again, some state lawmakers are calling for action and hoping it passes this time. The bill previously made it through the Illinois House of Representatives in 2021, but was shut down in the Senate.

State Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) voiced her concern following the death of Silas, and says she will continue pushing for better protections.

"In Illinois, we continue to pass policy that doesn't offer them protections. And it just makes it even harder," she said. "I'm very saddened. I'm mad. And I'm very concerned about what this is going to do to the rest of the DCFS family as well as the families of the victims."

If passed, the legislation known as the Knight-Silas Bill would grant DCFS employees the same protections as police, firemen, private security employees, correctional officers, and community policing volunteers.

“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,” Pritzker said. “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.”

RELATED: Husband of beaten DCFS worker asks lawmakers to explain themselves

Under the new proposal, any person who causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement to a DCFS employee would be charged with a more serious Class 1 felony as opposed to a Class 3. The extent of the harm and injury would not have an impact on the aggravated battery charge because of the status of the employees, just like other first responders.

“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.”

Under current Illinois law, anyone who commits physical crimes against a DCFS employee is charged with aggravated battery regardless of the harm and damage done.

A GoFundMe was created for Deidre's 2-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son. So far, community members have rallied to raise nearly $20,000 of the $100,000 goal for the family.

Anyone interested in donating can do so here.