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Thursday, June 2, 2011 10:39 am

Sex offender board can’t manage sex offenders

An audit of the Illinois Sex Offender Management Board shows failures in tracking sex offenders, even as the state legislature considers ramping up monitoring requirements.

The audit, released May 26 by Illinois Auditor General William Holland, says SOMB failed to develop a system for monitoring sex offenders seven years after those requirements took effect.

Created in 1997 by the Illinois General Assembly, the Sex Offender Management Board (SOMB) is tasked with advising decision makers on sex offender policies, researching the effectiveness of the current system, and approving individuals and companies that provide treatment for sex offenders. In 2004, the legislature passed a law requiring the board to create a system for evaluating and tracking sex offenders, but that system is still nonexistent.

Though sex offenders in Illinois are required to register with the Illinois State Police, that is a separate system from the one SOMB was supposed to create, and the ISP registry involves only sporadic monitoring. The board was supposed to incorporate a means for “monitoring offender behaviors and offender adherence to prescribed behavioral changes,” but that has not happened.

The state sex offender registry maintained by the Illinois State Police showed 24,929 sex offenders registered on May 27, though the audit notes that “approximately two-thirds of registered Illinois sex offenders are not under any form of supervision.”

“The results of this tracking and behavioral monitoring are required to be incorporated into any analysis by the Board regarding the effectiveness of the evaluation, identification and counseling procedures and programs developed…,” the audit states.

Holland says the lack of a system for tracking offenders makes it hard for the board to check the effectiveness of Illinois’ policies on sex offenders. He notes that SOMB had no timeline for implementing the system, and the board instead considered asking the legislature to remove that responsibility.

“Management stated that they have made as much progress as is currently possible in the area of tracking and monitoring offender behavior, but due to limited appropriations and the lack of personnel, compliance with this portion of the statute is not feasible in the short term,” Holland says. “Further, management stated that tracking and monitoring systems are viewed as long-term goals due to the absence of a statutory deadline.”

The board defends its inactions, saying it lacks funding, staff and legal authority to accomplish its objectives.

“To ensure that the program analyzes accurate, verifiable data, the Board needs the legal authority to require treatment providers to submit information about their evaluation and treatment methods, along with their observations of the offender’s behavior during treatment and after its completion,” SOMB says in the audit. “Currently, the Sex Offender Management Board has no legal authority … to require treatment providers to submit this information, making it extremely difficult to gather this data.”

The board also complains of sporadic board meeting attendance by many members and numerous board vacancies.

But the lack of research on the effectiveness of Illinois’ system has not stopped lawmakers from pushing for increased monitoring and restrictions on sex offenders.

Senate Bill 1040 would increase the length of time sex offenders have to register in the statewide database, increase the frequency of registration updates and even require sex offenders to report their whereabouts if staying in a temporary location for three or more days in a calendar year. Other bills would increase penalties for certain sex offenses, require sex offenders in college to register with their school and more. A bill that would have relaxed penalties for a teen caught in a consensual sex act with another teen under the legal age of consent failed in the House. 
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