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People v. Whitney

NOVEMBER 21, 1975.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

LOWELL EUGENE WHITNEY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Knox County; the Hon. GALE E. MATHERS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE STENGEL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Three years after commitment to Menard as a sexually dangerous person (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, § 105-3), defendant filed a petition for release under supervision. After a hearing, the Circuit Court of Knox County denied the petition, and defendant appeals.

Defendant was charged with deviate sexual assault upon a 79-year-old woman and, after his arrest, he admitted other forcible rape attacks upon elderly women who were in their seventies or eighties, all of which occurred while he was intoxicated. After psychiatric examinations and a hearing, defendant was declared to be a sexually dangerous person, and, on July 9, 1971, was committed to the psychiatric division of the Menard Branch of the Illinois State Penitentiary System at Menard, Illinois.

The petition for release under supervision states that it appears that defendant is no longer a sexually dangerous person, that he has received the maximum benefit from treatment available at Menard, and that is now impossible to determine with certainty under conditions of institutional care whether or not he has fully recovered. Defendant requested a release conditioned upon supervision and counseling at the Renaissance Community Center in Peoria, a "half-way house" operated by the Department of Corrections for rehabilitation of persons on parole.

During his three years of confinement, defendant received psychiatric treatment in the form of group therapy and individual counseling. Furthermore, he committed no disciplinary infractions, and had a good work record in a variety of job assignments at the institution.

At the hearing on defendant's petition, Dr. Frank Perez, a Menard staff psychiatrist who has supervised defendant's treatment, testified that defendant had made good progress; that Menard could provide no further treatment of benefit to defendant; that the time has come to "test" defendant in "real life situations"; that, although the doctor could not guarantee a complete cure, particularly with regard to defendant's previous excessive drinking problem, he believed that defendant had recovered sufficiently so as not to be a threat to the public if placed in a controlled environment.

A psychiatric evaluation by Dr. Perez was admitted in evidence, and stated:

"Mr. Whitney is not basically crime oriented. I feel that with some outside supportive counseling, plus some supervision to relieve the anxieties of the community by some parole agent, Mr. Whitney has a good chance, when compared with chronic offenders, to make a comeback in society."

A psychiatric report by Dr. Thomas Tourlentes, who had examined defendant before commitment and again after the petition for release was filed, contained the following:

"He says that he has not used any medication in prison, and has had no particular craving for alcohol. However, he recognizes that alcohol contributed significantly to his previous difficulties, and feels he can successfully resist using alcohol as an emotional crutch again. * * *

I am impressed that Mr. Whitney has matured considerably in prison the past three years, and that he now has the inner strength to constitute a reasonable parole risk. However, this should be accompanied by adequate outpatient psychiatric supervision until it can be demonstrated that Mr. Whitney is able to sustain his improvement in an open community setting. This should be no special problem in Peoria, where there are ample resources, either through the Community Mental Health Clinic or the Zeller Zone Center. It seems entirely possible, with continued encouragement and support, that Mr. Whitney will be able to make significant and positive contributions to society in the future."

Defendant also introduced evidence concerning the Renaissance Community Center. A written description of the Department of Corrections Community Center program stated that the Department prefers that a parolee "be in fairly sound mental health or not in need of psychiatric aid * * *." and that duplication of services is avoided where the Department of Mental Health may be more "professionally adept" at providing services.

Defendant's counselor from Menard had visited the Renaissance Center in Peoria to arrange for acceptance of defendant at that facility. He testified in favor of releasing defendant to the center. At defendant's request, the trial judge stated for the record the substance of conversations with Barry Bass, superintendent of the Renaissance Center, at which the judge, the State's Attorney and the defendant's attorney were present. The judge said that two counselors live at the Center, one a social worker and one a trainee. Residents are subject to supervision by a parole officer, and are required to report in person or by telephone to a staff member every 24 hours. A progress report is made by a staff member every 30 days. In addition, defendant would have out-patient psychiatric services available at his own expense.

No alcohol is permitted on the premises, and each resident has a private room. The staff would attempt to carry out, as far as possible, any conditions imposed by the court. Furthermore, there was space ...


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