The Probation Department in DuPage County is one of the most professional and progressive departments in the State of Illinois. It is therefore no surprise that our probation department is at the cutting edge in the development of specialized programs: The High Risk Offender Program started in 1994 was one of the first of its kind in Illinois. Earlier this year our probation department was awarded a grant in recognition of its development of a Sex Offender Program. The latest program, the Special Needs Advocacy Program is the first program in the State of Illinois designed to address the needs of the mentally challenged probationer.
These special programs were developed to better serve, supervise and monitor probationers who have special needs. By specializing, the probation department is able to match special needs of the client with the special training and skill of individual probation officers.
There is a great deal of difference between the traditional concept of probation and successful completion of the specialized programs. The scope of this article is an open discussion of the three specialized probation programs now operating in DuPage County
High Risk Offender Program
What is the High Risk Offender Program? The High Risk Offender Program, (HROP) is a program designed for youthful offenders between the age of 17 and 24 who are at a greater risk for non compliance with the established terms and conditions of traditional probation. The program started in the fall of 1994 as a method of identifying these at risk offenders and offering them the most time and attention. Generally these offenders have priors, they have at least some tie to street gangs, and often exhibit emotional problems including issues with anger management and social inappropriateness. They are usually are alcohol and drug dependent, with minimal education, and little or no job skills or vocational future.
The probation officers assigned to this program have a lower case load than other officers. This allows each officer the time necessary to make weekly meetings and otherwise monitor the numerous required conditions of the High Risk Offender Program
Who is eligible? An offender must be a resident of DuPage County in order to be eligible for the program. In addition, program participants must meet at least one of the following criteria; a lack of a high school diploma or GED, known or suspected gang association, chronic unemployment, or have problems with alcohol abuse.
Is the offender actually sentenced to the High Risk Offender Program? The High Risk Offender Program is a sentencing alternative. The sentencing judge may sentence any youthful offender who is otherwise eligible for a sentence of probation to the program. The court determines eligibility for the program and actually sentences an offender to complete the program. It is not done by probation.
However, once on regular probation, an offender who is subject to the Intermediate Sanctions Program, can be cited by a probation officer for a technical violation, and placed into HROP as a sanction for the probation violation.
What are the special requirements for the High Risk Offender Program ? HROP is a three phase program. During the first phase the offender must meet with their probation officer on a weekly basis. At least one visit per month must be a home visit or field visit. In the second phase the required meetings decrease to once every other week with their probation officer. Offenders who do not have a high school diploma or GED are required to enroll in GED classes. In the third phase the offender is transferred to a Probation Officer on the Youthful Offender Team and seen every other week in person.
Counseling is also required. Participants must successfully complete two six week counseling programs, addressing anger management and conflict resolution. The other mandatory aspects of the program include completion of HIV education classes as well as 120 hours of public service work.
What is anger management counseling? The is a unique program designed for youthful participants. It teaches offenders how to effectively resolve conflicts and solve problems in a nonviolent way. The program is very similar to the programs that are currently being used in middle schools and high schools in the area.
How does the program address gang involvement? First, each offender is screened for evidence of gang affiliation. Probation attempts not only to single out known or suspected gang members. LEADS checks are run on each offender. Probation officers work with the Sheriff’s Office and various police departments to maintain a working knowledge of gang activity and membership. They are very visible with the law enforcement community. These probation officers regularly attend meetings with police agencies to discuss known and suspected gang activity in the county. This affords probation with the opportunity to exchange information with local law enforcement regarding known gang members, their locations, cars, display of colors, activities, arrests and convictions.
Once a particular offender is determined to be a gang member, the long process of educating them on the costs of being in a gang begins. They are exposed to as many positive alternatives as possible to show them that there are other ways to do things. The program tries to re-frame how they look at the world and let them know there are other choices they can make in the life.
As an example, offenders in the program generally have little education, and many do not have a high school diploma. Offenders are exposed to education through the High Risk Offender Program. The GED program is offered at the Probation Department. It is taught by Deputy Lyons who has a lot of experience working this population. He also teaches GED classes for inmates at the DuPage County Jail. The program also addresses vocational choices, and offers training if it is available. Another example of tile alternative examples can be seen in the new Mentor Program.
What is the mentor program? The mentor program will start in October of 1997. It is a program designed to address the absence of a positive adult role model in the lives of most of the HROP probation. Generally the offenders who otherwise qualify for HROP do not have a positive adult role model in their life. They do not have a father figure, and their extended family is limited. Unfortunately many times this void filled by the gang. The mentor program is an attempt to give the offender a positive role model.
The program was designed by Charla Waxan, a consultant who has had a great deal of experience with gangs and offenders who fit the profile for HROP. She has implemented and directed similar mentoring programs in surrounding communities.
Who can be a mentor and what do they do? A mentor in this program must be at least 10 years older than his or her assigned mentee, and must complete an eight hour training course. Probation will actively recruit mentors from the education community, including teachers, coaches, counselors and grad students. Members of community groups and local churches are also welcome. Potential mentors are subject to a background check to ensure they are suitable for the program.
Mentors are required to meet with their mentee on a weekly basis. The purpose of these meetings is to be a supportive and positive role model for the offender. It also affords the offender the opportunity to accomplish goals which are beneficial. The activity between the mentor and mentee can take on many different forms. For example a mentor might work with an offender to get a driver’s license. Their weekly meetings might include working on the rules of the road. This is obviously a positive goal for an offender, but is often something a probation officer can not allot time for. This is where a mentor can step in and bridge the gap.
What is the overall success rate of the High Risk Offender Program? Such a question is difficult to answer. In at attempt to find the data to answer this question, the probation department is developing a computerized program to keep track of statistics. At the outset of any answer to this question it must be remembered that the offenders assigned to this program are those at greatest risk to violate probation. For many of these offenders, this is the last opportunity to make something of themselves or to face prison. So it is not surprising that the number of offenders who are revoked for not following the program rules is very high. However, for every one who does complete the program, there is an empty bed in the department of corrections and a youthful offender hopefully on his or her way to a productive adulthood.
Sex Offender Grant Program
1. What is the Sex Offender Grant Program? This program was created to address the unique circumstances presented by sex offenders. The format and requirements for our Sex Offender Grant Program is the result of a lengthy analysis of the best programs through out the United States. The Probation Department sought input from some of the most qualified and experienced experts available. The design of this program was borrowed in large part from the Maricopa County Model (Phoenix, Arizona), and the research of the leading experts in the sex offender field.
Maricopa County, and other well recognized sex offender probation programs require offenders to complete treatment which includes a cognitive behavioral approach together with a relapse prevention component. This format is based on intensive research and has proven to be very effective. The DuPage County program has replicated this design. With the aid of a Federal Grant, the Sex Offender Grant Program is now staffed and operating
2. Is the program available for all sex offenders? Yes, the program was designed for sex offenders who are DuPage County residents. The potential participants can be divided into three groups; those convicted of a sex offense, those found guilty of a sex offense but not convicted, and those not charged with a sex offense, who because of their criminal history or background, may be ordered to complete the program.
3. Is the program mandatory? The program is mandatory for anyone convicted of a sex offense, regardless whether the conviction is for a felony or misdemeanor conviction. Any offender convicted of a sex offense and sentenced to Probation in DuPage County, is required to complete the program. However, for offenders charged with a sex offense but not convicted, for example those given court supervision on a sex offense, the sentencing judge may order an offender to complete the program.
4. Can a court order any offender into the program? Yes, offenders facing sentencing on any felony or misdemeanor case, regardless of the offense at issue, may be ordered into the program. The issue is presented to the sentencing judge as a sentencing alternative, and if the sentencing judge believes participation in the Sex Offender Grant Program is appropriate, he or she may sentence the defendant to complete the program.
5. Is a Pre-Sentence Report necessary? Yes, a full pre-sentence report should be ordered in all cases in which an offender may be sentenced to participate in the Sex Offender Grant Program and for any convicted sex offense when probation is a possibility. A pre-sentence report is the only probation document which includes the defendant’s version of the offense. The offender’s version of the offense is an integral part of treatment, and the pre-sentence report is the best opportunity for the defendant to give his version of the events.
6. After the offender is sentenced to the program, what happens? The Sex Offender Grant Program is divided into two phases, evaluation and treatment. The first phase, the evaluation process is conducted by an approved sex offender service provider. An approved service provider has been screened by the probation department, and must meet the standards for credentials and sex offender specific experience. The offender is required to submit to a full sex offender evaluation. At a minimum, the evaluation must include a MMPI, Minnesota MultiPhasic Personality Inventory, a MSI, Multi-Phasic Sexual Inventory, an Abel-Becker Card Sort, a Hare Psychopathy Check List, a personal interview and a polygraph examination. The Abel-Becker Card Sort measures an offenders degree of propensity toward child molestation; the Hare Psychopathy Check List measures the propensity of an offender toward violence and victimization of women. If evaluation does not recommend treatment, the offender has completed the program. If the evaluation does recommend treatment, the second aspect of the evaluation process begins.
This second stage of the evaluation process is the education component. It consists of two 150 minute sessions which convene on two consecutive Saturday mornings. These classes are mandatory not only for offenders, but also for their significant other. The classes are designed to educate the offender about sex offenses, and introduce relapse prevention. The classes also educate the significant other about sex offenses and relapse, and show the significant other how and why they can be another set of eyes in the community monitoring the offenders progress.
After the offender and significant other have complete these classes, the offender is advanced into individual and group counseling and the significant other will attend a support group. Once the offender is stabilized in their counseling group, they are eligible to move on to the treatment phase of the program.
Why a significant other? The significant other is usually the offender’s partner, generally his or her spouse. However the significant other may be a parent, sibling or other person who is expected to be a part of the offender’s life in the future. The reason for including a significant other in treatment is that a significant other can play a very important role in relapse prevention. Generally relapse prevention involves recognizing the steps an offender will go through before re-offending and learning how to interrupt these steps to prevent the relapse. In the future the significant other may be the most important line of defense between the offender and reoffending.
7. What is included in the treatment phase? The treatment phase is planned for each offender based on the recommendations from the evaluation. Treatment may include sex education, and counseling. The counseling portion can involve dealing with mental health issues, social issues and isolation issues, but always includes group sex offender treatment. These recommendations are based on the individual’s needs. Finally, treatment requires a maintenance polygraph, done at least annually, to insure the offender is making progress in treatment.
8. A large part of the process is counseling, what is required? When the program format was still developing, the probation department went to the service providers in the community and asked them to meet the desired criteria. Many undertook the call and met the need. The treatment component including counseling depends upon the service provider maintaining DuPage County Probation Department standards and using the cognitive behavioral model with relapse prevention. The required criteria for service providers includes, attaining a certain educational level and completing at least 2000 hours of experience in providing sex offender services. In addition they must attend bimonthly meetings at the Probation Department, and attend yearly training to stay up-to-date on the best methods in the field. Finally, they must use the cognitive behavioral model with relapse prevention.
The counseling component consists of individual and group counseling for the offender. A very important part of the group counseling is counseling with other sex offenders. They are able to most consistently help the offender break through his or her denial.
In addition, there is a polygraph that is done on at least an annual basis that is used to verify whether the sex offender is making treatment progress. As with the sex offender service providers, the polygraph examiner must be an approved examiner based on his experience and knowledge of working with sex offenders.
9. Is contact with children restricted in any way? One of the other conditions of sex offender probation is that the offender is not allowed to live with nor be in the presence of any child under the age of 18, regardless of the relationship between the offender and the children. This restriction may be altered if the offender has been assessed by an sex offender evaluator backed by the polygraph and the evaluator expresses the opinion that the offender poses no threat to those children.
In addition, all sex offenders in the program are strictly prohibited from frequenting, traveling past, or loitering in parks, school yards, playgrounds or other places used primarily by children under the age of 18. This restriction applies to offenders charged with child molesting as well as those charged with a sex offense against an adult, and remains in effect even when an evaluator is of the opinion that the offender is not a danger to the children he or she may reside with. Finally, the offender may not have any contact, directly or indirectly with the victim.
10. What about the use of alcohol? One of the other conditions of the program expressly prohibits the use of alcohol. The reason for this is alcohol lowers inhibitions, and leads to a loss of control and for the sex offender this may lead into a relapse. Another related issue is stress. The process of sex offender treatment is difficult and quite stressful, use of alcohol during this time may escalate into a problem. Finally the possession of alcohol can facilitate access to minors and is therefore forbidden.
11. Are there other activities which are prohibited or restricted? Yes, there are several other activities which are prohibited or restricted. The offender cannot possess any sexually stimulating material or frequent any place where such material is for sale. An offender must be dressed appropriately at all times; which means the wearing of undergarments and clothing in places where another person may be expected to view the offender, for example in public. While on probation an offender is not allowed to utilize 900 phone numbers. Finally, an offender is not allowed to use a video camera, a still camera, video tapes, or a computer for the purpose of violating any Illinois Statute related to sexual offenses.
12. What is family reunification? Family reunification is the process of reconstructing a family unit which includes the offender and victim living in the same home. It is a long process, and is not appropriate for all cases.
In cases where the victim of the sex offense is a member of the offender’s family, and resides with the offender, the offender must move out of the home. This arrangement shall remain in effect until the therapist, the Probation Officer, and the victim are all of the opinion that the offender is no longer a threat to the victim. This finding is a prerequisite to any step toward family reunification.
The reunification will not be approved, encouraged or even suggested by the offender’s therapist until there has been a full staffing. This includes approval from the victim’s therapist, and the offender’s probation officer. The offender must have completed at least the MSI and one polygraph to verify the offender’s progress in sex offender treatment. The spouse or significant other must have completed the educational group and be participating in the significant other support group. In addition, the significant other must be trained in how to be an appropriate chaperon.
Once all of these criteria have been met, the therapist along with the probation officer will develop a time table allowing the offender to move back into the home. The process will start very slowly, perhaps as little as one hour per week, and progress from there. If at any time the victim feels uncomfortable with the reunification, the process will be halted.
13. Is Family Reunification or the conditions of probation affected by orders in a pending divorce, or juvenile court proceeding? In many cases, an arrest for a sex offenses when the victim is related to the offender, can precipitate a number of other proceedings in both the Juvenile courts and the Domestic Relations Division. Areas such a contact with the child victim can generate conflicting orders. A sentencing order or probation order for the sex offender program can strictly prohibit contact with a child, while a temporary custody order may provide for specific visitation with the same child. The offender is expected to follow all Probation orders even where another order is in conflict, unless subsequent probation order contains specific language to the contrary
The process for family reunification is to be followed regardless of orders in other proceedings.
14. What is the cost of the program to the offender? The offender must pay the $500.00 fee for the sex offender evaluation. In addition, the offender must pay for the initial polygraph examination at a cost of approximately $350.00 and for the yearly polygraph examinations at a cost of approximately $250.00 for each year they remain on probation. The education program costs about $150.00, and the ongoing treatment expenses average $200.00 per month.
Probation fees are available to pay for the services provided to indigent probationers, and a gradient scale is available for those who are unable to pay for all costs.
Special Needs Advocacy Program
1. What is the Special Needs Advocacy Program? The Specialized Needs Advocacy Program is a specialized probation program created to address the special needs of the most severe and persistently mentally ill offenders sentenced to probation who are DuPage County residents. This program started in January of 1997, and is the first time a county Probation Department and a county Health Department have collaborated to address the needs of this segment of society. The Health Department provides a mental health clinician who works in conjunction with a probation officer to fill the needs of these individuals.
Most offenders admitted into the program have previously been institutionalized in a psychiatric facility, and are in acute need of intensive service to avoid re-hospitalization and/or re-arrest. In the past these probationers fell through the cracks. The Specialized Needs Advocacy Program came into being through the joint efforts of the DuPage Probation Department and the DuPage Health Department as a means to address the profound needs of these individuals.
2. Is the program a sentencing alternative? No, this program is utilized at the discretion of probation. Potential users are screened by probation, and if they meet the criteria set for the program may be admitted into the program. In order to be eligible to receive the services of the Special Needs Advocacy Program the offender must be a DuPage County resident. Residency is necessary to facilitate the DuPage County Health Department in its quest to provide immediate and ongoing services to the offender. The offender almost always has a documented past psychiatric history and be in need at the time of referral to the program.
3. What is the goal of this program? The goal of this program is twofold. First the program seeks to bring the offender to the highest level of functioning that they are capable of. Secondly, the program seeks to avoid re-institutionalization of the offender, that is to keep the offender functioning in society and out of a hospital or jail.
However the program also seeks to expedite institutionalization in the least restrictive placement available when a need, or if the offender is found to be unfit to care for themselves. This is done in the best arises as a result of an act of violence toward themselves or another member of the community interests of the offender and for the safety of the community.
4. Are the services of this program limited? This is a new program and the services are very limited. The probation department may use only thirty five slots in any one year period. The average probationer will be in the program for the duration of his or her term of probation, but the most intensive use of services is their first three months in the program. Acceptance into the program is based on need as much as any other single factor.
5. What are the special requirements for compliance with the program? Compliance with probation is a relative concept. Satisfactory compliance with this program depends on the needs and abilities of the individual who has been referred into the program. There are no special requirements that an offender must complete in order to comply with the program. This probation program is primarily interested in stabilizing the offender, through assessment, treatment and, if recommended by a psychiatrist, through medication, so that they are able to live productively in society.
6. Do you assess clients for violence? Violence is always an issue and these offenders are assessed for violent propensities. Commission of a violent offense would not necessarily preclude the offender from being admitted into the Special Needs Advocacy Program. However, offenders who have a history of violence are much more difficult to place in treatment programs that might otherwise be available to them through S.N.A.P.
7. What happens when a probationer IAS too dangerous to remain in the community?When there is a reason to believe that a probationer is too dangerous to himself or others the Mental Health Clinician would notify the County Crisis Unit. A Qualified Examiner, from the Crisis Unit would then come out to examine the individual and determine whether the individual is at risk to remain in the community. Depending on the findings, a Qualified Examiner can allow the offender to remain in the community, or refer the individual to Elgin State Mental Hospital for immediate services, or whatever the least restrictive available placement maybe.
8. Are there other county and state services available for these clients? Once these clients are stabilized in the program through monitoring, and medication management there are many services available to support the individual in the community. Through the knowledge and experience of the DuPage Health Department mental health clinician, the special needs of the offender can be matched to county or state programs best suited to that particular individual. Local programs such as transitional living, DORS, housing, public aid, disability, as well as federal food stamp programs, SSDI and others are available to help these offenders maintain life without institutional intervention and without re-offending.
When these individuals are stabilized they are much more likely to receive the services that they are entitled to, and when they receive these services they are more likely to remain stabilized and less likely to act out in the community. When this is accomplished, the Special Needs Advocacy Program has succeeded.
These programs are supervised by Robin Partin, Sandra White and Laurie Kelly, under the direction of Sidney DeLair.
Sidney C. DeLair - Senior Supervisor Adult Division he has been with the Probation Department for 21 years.
Robin L. Partin - Supervisor Adult Division - Robin is the Supervisor of the Youthful Offender Team and the High Risk Offender Program. She has been with the Department for 17 years.
Laurie Kassel Kelly - Supervisor Adult Division - Laurie is the Supervisor of the Team that deals with mentally ill offenders. Laurie has been with the Department for 18 years.
Sandra K. White - Supervisor Adult Division - Sandra is the Supervisor of the team that deals with sex offenders. She has been with the Department for 16 years.