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PATC E-NewsletterTypes of Polygraph Used in Sex Offender Testing
By Dan Sosnowski

The polygraph community, in conjunction with therapists and probation/parole officers, has identified the following types of tests to deal with areas of concern:

1) Instant Offense Disclosure - Specific issue dealing with denial.

Sex offenders frequently deny or minimize their behavior both about the index offense and past behaviors. According to Trepper & Barrett (1989) there are four types of denial commonly associated with sexual offenders:

1) Denial of facts. 3) Denial of responsibility.
2) Denial of awareness. 4) Denial of impact..

Polygraph can be useful in breaking down the barrier of denial, especially regarding the denial of facts about a sexual crime. Often the question revolves around culpability and taking responsibility for their behavior.

Denial of awareness is frequently claimed with the offender maintaining he was unaware of the age victim of his or that he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs at the time of the crime. If deemed important, questions can be formulated to address specific awareness issues. For example, “Did you know the victim was only 13 years old?” or “Do you recall having sexual contact with your daughter?” can be used in an effort to break through very specific denial of awareness issues.

Denial of responsibility often involves denial of specific facts and/or denial of awareness. It is not uncommon for an offender to maintain that he was duped into a sexual encounter with a minor, had been mistakenly identified as the offender, or was under the influence of a substance at the time and did not realize what he was doing. Minimizing the offensive act is also frequently used as a method of denying responsibility (i.e. I was only rubbing her back).

Denial of impact usually is related to the minimization of damage (physical and/or psychological) to the victim. Confronting the denial of facts, awareness, and responsibility can easily be addressed with a good polygrapher. Confronting denial of impact may not be applicable to polygraphy.

2) Sexual History Disclosure – Issues dealing with complete disclosure of sexual behavior and interests.

The Sexual History Disclosure examination is utilized to explore and extract from the sex offender their involvement in sexual behavior. The sexual history information can be helpful in facilitating treatment for the offender and assessing risk factors. A guarantee of immunity from prosecution for any offenses revealed during the Sexual History Disclosure examination may be necessary for full participation by the offender. Some clinicians involved with probationary polygraphs have limited their Sexual History Disclosure examinations to undisclosed victims rather than the client’s entire sexual history (Wygant, 1996; Lundell, 1996).

This is largely due in part to questions pertaining with an individual’s overall behavior. The possibility of an offender withholding relevant information regarding undisclosed sexual paraphilias is great and therefore the likelihood that a deceptive polygraph is very high.

Due to this fact, the instructors who teach the approved Post Conviction Sex Offender Testing course agreed that the preferred method would be to test on the issue dealing with undisclosed victims versus undisclosed sexual behaviors.

3) Maintenance Testing – Compliance issues dealing with probation and or treatment areas.
4) Monitoring Testing – Specific issues dealing with new sex offenses.

The Maintenance Examination is utilized to monitor the sex offender’s activities, behavior, and truthfulness with treatment providers while on probation or parole. It is generally administered every three to six months to ensure offender compliance with conditions set forth by probation and parole. Compliance with treatment conditions such as requiring the offender does not associate with children, view pornography, use of alcohol, illegal drugs and abstaining from specific sexual behaviors can be effectively monitored.

A multidisciplinary team approach is essential for the use of the polygraph to be the most effective. The common goal for this team approach is “NO NEW VICTIMS”. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that there is communication between probation/parole agents, law enforcement agencies, therapists and the polygrapher is essential in order to maximize this benefit.

This team approach in the state of Oregon has demonstrated a low rate of recidivism and lower rate of probation/parole revocations (Gindstaff, 1993). The pass or fail rate with sexual maintenance testing is largely dependent upon the persistence, intervention, and teamwork of the therapist and probation officer.


Related Article: Inconclusive Polygraph Results-Why?



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