The arrest of a repeat sex offender in a brutal crime in Lake County, Il., has called attention to the difficult and often controversial process by which state officials decide which sex offenders should be confined indefinitely for treatment, even after they serve their prison sentences, the Chicago Tribune reports. State Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan’s office said that a breakdown in the process helped the suspect, Christopher Hanson, leave prison in October, when he might well have been recommended for confinement as a “sexually violent person” under state law. Corrections officials say the law should be changed to give them greater legal authority to steer sex offenders into confinement.
Hanson, 29, was arrested last week in the rape and stabbing of an 18-year-old woman. On Friday, representatives of Madigan and Lake County prosecutor Michael Waller met with corrections officials and recommended an overhaul of how prison officials refer “sexually violent person” cases to prosecutors, who then file a petition in court to seek an order of commitment. Some 246 “sexually violent persons” have been held civilly since 1998. That’s a small fraction of the total; last year, the state released 2,600 sex offenders. About 985 of those had committed crimes that were serious enough to be eligible for civil confinement. The Tribune describes the process used to decide who should be held.