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Sexually Dangerous Person Act

A proposal in Springfield to toughen penalties for sexual predators could be used several times a year in Ogle County, according to State's Attorney Doug Floski.

A bill scheduled to be introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives would make it easier for prosecutors to petition the courts to declare a sex offender a sexually dangerous person. Once that designation has been made an offender could be held indefinitely until the courts determine the defendant is no longer a threat.

"What this would allow us to do is treat offenders with regard to what they might do, not just based on what they have already done. It truely is crime prevention," Floski said. "We often have offenders whose crimes makes them extremely likely to offend; this law will help us deal with that problem."

Currently, prosecutors often ask for the sexually dangerous person designation which carries the potential for longer incarceration, instead of seeking criminal charges against a repeat sex offender. This bill would allow them to ask judges to consider the issue when a defendant is nearing the end of a traditional prison term in cases where the defendant has received no treatment in prison or has not responded to treatment.

"This allows us to evaluate the effect prison therapy has had on an individual," Floski said, "Since therapy is optional for imprisoned sex offenders, we know that very few actually receive any help. With this law, we could go to a judge and explain that this offender is just as dangerous, if not more so, than the day he was sentenced. It gives the courts and the community some control."

That likelihood to reoffend is the primary reason Floski and many prosecutors in Illinois are endorsing the proposal.

"Under most circumstances, once a person has paid their debt to society, they should be released from the state's oversight." Floski said, "However, we know that sex offenders, particularly those who prey on children, have the highest rate or recidivism of any criminal."

The Sexually Dangerous Person Act came into law in Illinois in response to those statistics. Though different studies show different numbers, Floski said he is familiar with research showing the recidivism rate among sex offenders of children to be as high as 70 percent.

"There is some recent evidence that therapy can be effective with some of those defendants," Floski said. "For those who don't respond however, we have to be able to keep them off the streets."

Floski said his office has already had three defendants declared sexually dangerous: they are among 89 defendants incarcerated in Illinois under that designation.

To have someone declared sexually dangerous, prosecutors must show that a defendant has a mental disorder for more than a year, that the disorder causes him to commit sex offenses, and that he has a history of prior sex offenses.

Once the designation has been made, the defendant cannot be freed until he peitions the court not more than once a year and presents a psychiatric testimony that he is no longer dangerous. Floski called it a very high standard of proof, one that offers the community a great deal of protection.

"The Sexually Dangerous Person Act is a good law and it has been working for us here in Ogle County, " Floski said. "what this new proposal would do is fine tune it, make it even more effective at protecting our communities from repeat sex offenders."

Ogle County press release

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