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Polygraph Plays a Key Role as a Containment Tool for Convicted Sex Offenders in the Community

NCJ Number
Polygraph Volume: 31 Issue: 4 Dated: 2002 Pages: 240-253
Date Published
14 pages

This article presents further findings and information from a federally funded study evaluating the effectiveness of the post-conviction polygraph exam as a monitoring and behavior containment tool for convicted adult sex offenders.


Building from previous research conducted by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice for the National Institute of Justice which described the containment approach for the case management of adult sex offenders on probation and parole, a five-part strategy each representing a fundamental element of effective management of adult sex offenders, a recent study, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, found these same fundamental elements, as well as the polygraph as a containment tool must be present to maximize the effects of risk management efforts. This article reports on additional findings and information learned while conducting the polygraph study. Findings confirmed that the “containment approach” which includes the use of the polygraph is an effective model for the management of convicted adult sex offenders in the community. Findings from the polygraph study indicated: (1) 53 percent of probation and parole agencies had specialized sex offender caseloads; (2) the polygraph took an average of 2 hours with an average price cost of $200; (3) the idea for agencies to use the polygraph predominantly originated from treatment providers; (4) of the agencies using the polygraph in 1998, 43 percent had not had polygraph-specific training; (5) 26 percent of all sex offenders received the polygraph; (6) 64 percent regularly used the polygraph to monitor compliance, 52 percent to obtain a sexual history, and 46 percent when the offender was in denial about the current conviction; (7) 52 percent of the agencies used the polygraph when there was suspicion, hunch, or a red flag followed by 30 percent for a critical incident; and (8) 55 percent of the agencies have been using the polygraph for 0 to 4 years, followed by 28 percent for 5 to 9 years. With the polygraph sometimes considered controversial, probation and parole supervisors provided feedback on whether or not the polygraph’s use was important and had changed the way sex offenders were managed. Three out of four or 76 percent of the respondents reported that the use of post-conviction polygraph enhances knowledge of the offender and 67 percent said that it led to better case management and supervision. Figures and references

Date Published: January 1, 2002