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How is the Post-Conviction Polygraph Examination Used in Adult Sex Offender Management Activities?

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2000
74 pages
This report addresses the methodology and findings of the second (1998) national telephone survey of probation and parole supervisors regarding their use of the polygraph examination in the management of adult sex offenders.
This survey built upon an earlier 1992 study that focused on how sex offenders were being managed in community settings and how they could best be managed. This study included a 1994 survey of probation and parole supervisors that inquired about sex offender management. The 1998 survey was designed to re-contact all 1994 telephone survey participants to focus on a number of questions related specifically to the use of the polygraph as a management and supervision tool for sex offenders. Completed questionnaires were received from 699 of the original sample of 732. All respondents were questioned about their current use of the postconviction polygraph for the treatment and supervision of sex offenders. Responses were weighted to reflect agencies that had consolidated since the 1994 survey. Of the 699 respondents, 533 indicated the polygraph was "never or rarely used" in the management of sex offenders. Another 146 indicated the "polygraph was used, at least sometimes." Those who stated that they never or rarely used the polygraph were asked to describe barriers to the use of the polygraph with sex offenders. Respondents who indicated that their agencies used the postconviction polygraph for the treatment and supervision of sex offenders sometimes, often, almost always, or always were asked a different set of questions. These included when and how the polygraph was used, consequences for deceptive results or new information revealed, changes in the management of sex offenders attributed to the use of the polygraph, and perceived benefits of the postconviction polygraph as a tool for the management and supervision of sex offenders. Agencies that used the polygraph were more likely to have used specialized caseloads and special risk assessments with sex offenders. The biggest barriers to implementation of the polygraph was a lack of resources and a lack of polygraph examiners. Almost two-thirds of the respondents who used the polygraph indicated their agencies used it regularly to determine compliance with probation/parole conditions. The choice of the polygraph examiner was apparently crucial in determining the success of program implementation. Respondents advised developing interviews with prospective examiners, screening and background checks, and ensuring that the polygraph examiner is qualified and experienced in testing sex offenders. Sanctions and consequences played an important role in the postconviction polygraph process. Some benefits mentioned from using the polygraph in managing sex offenders were enhancement of disclosure and knowledge of the offender, better management and supervision of the offender, the prevention of offenses, the provision of better and more appropriate treatment, the breaking down of denial, and more effective application of consequences for negative behaviors. 48 tables and appended survey instrument, a table of differences among five jurisdictions in four States where file data were collected, and the file data collection instrument

Date Published: December 1, 2000