The Illinois Sex Offenses and Sex Offender Registration Task Force was established by the 99th General Assembly. Its mandate was to perform three functions before January 1, 2018:
- Examine current offenses that require offenders to register as sex offenders, the current data and research regarding evidence-based practices, the conditions, restrictions, and outcomes for registered sex offenders, and the registration process.
- Hold public hearings at the call of the co-chairpersons to receive testimony from the public.
- Make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding legislative changes to more effectively classify sex offenders based on their level of risk of re-offending, better direct resources to monitor the most violent and high-risk offenders, and to ensure public safety.
From December 2016 through December 2017, the Task Force and its diverse membership carried out these activities with administrative support from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. This report recapitulates and concludes its work. The report reviews sex offenses subject to registration in Illinois; discusses the statutory categories of sex offenders and sexual predator, and what state-level data shows about the sex offender population; offers a brief history of sex offender legislation and policy from a national and Illinois perspective; examines the state’s infrastructure tasked with overseeing state and local sex offender management system; and provides the Task Force’s findings and recommendations, which are outlined below in this Executive Summary.
It is important to note that the Task Force examined the most current and scientifically rigorous research available on sex offender policies and practice and heard testimony from renowned experts in the field. Much of the research reviewed was collected and summarized on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking Office’s Sex Offender Management, Assessment, and Planning Initiative.
Task Force Findings
Sex Offender Recidivism and the Efficacy of Treatment
- Using recidivism to determine policy and programming effectiveness is limited because most sexual offenses go unreported. Inconsistencies in how researchers have studied recidivism have also limited the generalizability of findings.
- Although recidivism as an outcome measure has intrinsic limitations, it is still the best way to measure the effectiveness of sex offender management policies and practices.
- Overall, research literature suggests the recidivism rate for persons convicted of sex crimes ranges from 5 percent after 3 years to 24 percent after 15 years and varies significantly among offenders.
- Researchers have consistently found that people convicted of sex offenses are more likely to be rearrested, reconvicted, or reincarcerated for non-sex offenses than sex offenses.
- The most effective forms of supervision and treatment do not treat all people convicted of sexual offending as a homogenous group, but instead are tailored to address the risks and needs of individuals.
- Illinois lacks sufficient means to monitor and assess treatment of sex offenders at the state and local level.
- Treatment and supervision should be based on risk assessment information, as this ensures management and treatment plans correspond to the unique risk and treatment needs of those convicted of sex offenses.
- While release planning and evidence-based treatment are key components of successful behavior change, the greatest predictor of risk reduction is the length of time a person lives in the community without re-offending. Individuals convicted of sexual offenses reach the desistance threshold—meaning the likelihood of reoffending is low—at 10 years of offense-free community living.
- While Illinois and local agencies use risk assessments to varying degrees, the state lacks sufficient information on how agencies use these tools to address sexual offending.
Registration and Restrictions
- While public opinion surveys show that the public favors a freely available sex offender registry and law enforcement considers it a valuable investigatory tool, research has not established that registries have any effect on the sexual crime rate, and most studies find no reduction in sexual recidivism due to registries.
- Research has found that residency restrictions lead neither to reductions in sexual crime nor recidivism. However, registration and restrictions can prevent people convicted of sex offending from engaging in pro-social activities, such as work, that guard against reoffending.
- In Illinois, people convicted of a sex offense must register for either 10 years or life depending on their conviction. People convicted of a sex offense may be subject to a host of restrictions. The most comprehensive statutory restrictions apply to child sex offenders and are for life.
Task Force Recommendations
Based on its review of research and state law, policy, and practice, the Task Force members approved 14 recommendations. These recommendations were contingent on two interrelated imperatives. First, the approval was contingent on sufficient state funding to implement these recommendations. During Task Force meetings, members heard and discussed the challenges facing Illinois’ communities and government agencies in providing effective supervision, management, and treatment of sex offenders. A consistent theme was the lack of available funding. Second, the approval of the recommendations was contingent on the state ensuring that implementation takes into account the diversity of needs across Illinois communities and jurisdictions. Policies and practices that may work in one part of Illinois may not be possible or applicable in other areas of the state. While the state should encourage evidence-informed policies and practices, it must do so in a manner that allows for flexibility and appropriate local adaptation and innovation.
Support Infrastructure that Promotes Effective Sex Offender Management
- Make Illinois’ Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) an independent agency that is staffed and directed by an expert with a clinical background specializing in sex offender assessment and treatment. Illinois’ SOMB should use research to inform the creation of policy and to evaluate how policies are implemented and their impact.
- Expand Illinois’ SOMB’s core activities to include: setting statewide treatment and management standards that are research informed and evidence-based; identifying and certifying agencies and professionals qualified to carry out those standards; conducing systematic and comprehensive quality assurance oversight to ensure those certified are indeed implementing the standards specified; and providing training to agencies and professionals charged with treatment and court supervision, including judges. Adequate funding and staffing resources should be allocated to carry out these core functions.
Utilize Risk Assessments Post Conviction for Treatment and Management Purposes
- Require the use of a validated, structured risk assessment, as it is the most effective way to identify risk to sexually reoffend, as well as general reoffending risk.
- Use a standardized risk assessment process and risk assessment tools to promote consistency across those conducting the assessments. The tools, training, and process should be shaped by state oversight entity, like a sufficiently funded SOMB.
- Administer risk assessments after conviction by qualified professionals. Re-administer once a year, ideally (but minimally, every two years), while under supervision.
- Document and explain opinions that diverge from what is indicated by the validated, structured risk assessments.
- Require treatment and management be informed by the current scientific evidence as it relates to what is effective at reducing sexual reoffending.
Use the Registry to Focus on High-Risk People Convicted of Sex Offenses
- Effectively identify high-risk people by requiring any registry to use tiers to reflect actual risk of sexual re-offending (informed by the risk-assessment conducted post-conviction).
- Ensure resources can be focused on people who are at high risk of re-offending by having individuals on lower tiers—i.e., those who pose less risk—automatically removed from the registry after a set duration.
- Allow registrants to petition to be removed from the registry if they meet certain criteria, such as having crossed the desistance threshold. These criteria should be created by Illinois’ SOMB and be informed by current scientific knowledge.
- If used, the term “Sexual Predator” should not automatically refer to all lifetime registrants.
- Remove statutory requirements that stipulate any new felony (not for a sex offense) automatically triggers retroactive registration for certain individuals.
Ensure Restrictions are Narrowly Tailored to Improve Public Safety
- Tailor restrictions, including residency and proximity, to different tiers, with the highest risk tiers having appropriate restrictions.
- Revise the amount of time on Mandatory Supervised Release (MSR) for persons convicted of sex offenses. Those individuals determined to be lower risk, as determined by a validated, structured risk assessment, should have maximum MSR sentences of three years. Only the highest risk individuals, as determined by a validated, structured risk assessment, should have MSR sentences beyond three years.
- The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority would like to thank all the Task Force Members for their time and effort, and extend a special thank you to Barbara Barreno-Paschall (University of Chicago), Mary Boland (Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office), Tracie Newton (Illinois State Police), Hanna Pfeiffer (University of Chicago), and Alyssa Williams-Shafer (Illinois Department of Corrections) for their work on this project. ↩︎
- Experts included Mr. Roger Przybylski (recidivism and treatment), Dr. R. Karl Hanson (risk assessment), and Mr. Chris Lobanov-Rostovsky (sex offender registration, notification, and residence restrictions). ↩︎
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- Currently by statute the MSR structured minimum is three years, and in certain cases, can extend to natural life. See 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1(d)(4). ↩︎