Short of murder, sex offenses are some of the most grievous crimes one person can commit against another. Further, many offenders commit sex crimes repeatedly.
In an attempt to protect public safety and keep people from reoffending, Illinois carefully manages prior sex offenders. This includes treatment programs aimed at rehabilitating sex offenders, as well as sex offender registration.
Although these programs are well-intentioned, however, treatment programs are often expensive and time-consuming, and sex offender registration can have devastating consequences. Further, failure to comply with these programs results in more criminal charges.
Below, we’re going to cover how sex offender treatment programs and registration work in Illinois, and how to avoid the serious criminal consequences of a violation.
Illinois Sex Offender Treatment Programs
The Illinois Social Service Department provides a sex offender program that manages the cases of current and prior sex offenders. This includes offenders referred to the department with sexually related offenses – even if the offense is not considered a sex offense by criminal statute. The purpose of this program is to provide a highly structured supervision program aimed at rehabilitating sex offenders and preventing future offenses.
Caseworkers are trained mental health providers, and provide intervention intended to rehabilitate offenders, breaking through internalized denial, rationalization, manipulation, and minimization that often accompanies commission of sex offenses. They are aware of offenders’ prior criminal history and any new arrests, with the goal of being attuned to the individualized needs of each offender, and preventing ongoing criminal behavior of any kind.
Caseworkers also provide referrals to any relevant community resources for related issues such as substance abuse, mental health, or other necessary forms of counseling. However, the funding for these programs is limited, so offenders are often not provided with sufficient resources to address the underlying issues that led to commission of the offense.
Although these programs positively impact many offenders, offenders are also required to pay for treatment, which is often costly. Further, the associated monitoring programs can be invasive of offenders’ privacy. Offenders must comply with any requirements for database registration, DNA indexing, and STD/HIV testing. Caseworkers also notify offenders’ employers wen required to do so.
Although the intentions of these programs are good, they also invade offenders’ privacy, and may affect employment, housing, and interpersonal relationships.
Sex Offender Registration in Illinois
The Illinois State Police maintain a statewide Sex Offender Registration database, which is accessible to the public over the internet. Offenders convicted of many sex offenses or crimes against children are required to register for a specified period. This period may be five years, 10 years, or life registration. Failure to register, or to update changes in residence or workplace, is a criminal offense that will result in more jail time and potentially an extended registration period.
Offenders must register under the following circumstances:
- Conviction for the offense, or attempted commission of the offense
- Finding of not guilty by reason of insanity
- A finding other than acquittal at the hearing
The goal of the sex offender registration program is to protect the public from sex offenders. Statistically, sex offenders are often habitual offenders, so the risk of reoffending is considered a threat to public safety.
However, inclusion in the database is based solely on the offenders’ conviction. There is no assessment of individual offenders’ risk of reoffending. Further, multiple convictions for non-sex acts (for example, indecent exposure), also require registration. Even teens who record themselves engaging in consensual sex acts can be required to register.
What does this mean?
Regardless of the circumstances of the sex offense or likelihood of reoffending, all persons convicted of eligible sex crimes face sex offender registration. Whether the offender is a serial rapist or was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, the consequences of registration are the same.
Some states allow for offenders to petition for removal from the sex offender registry under certain circumstances. However, under current laws, this is not possible in Illinois. The only exception is for certain offenders convicted of sex crimes as juveniles.
Avoiding Violations of the Illinois Sex Offender Program
As restrictive as sex offender treatment programs may be, it’s important to comply with all terms of the program, including sex offender registration. If you have questions about the requirements of the program, talk to your caseworker or defense attorney – ignorance of a policy is not considered a defense. Failure to comply may mean a return to prison or extension of the monitoring program.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.