Starting in 1990, a growing number of states have developed special polygraph testing programs to monitor convicted sex offenders after they’ve been released back into the community. These court-ordered programs include periodic testing as a condition of the sex offender’s probation and/or parole, and are meant to assist in their treatment and reduce recidivism. In fact, offenders who participate in these programs are required to pass them to complete their treatment program.
In order to implement these tests, a polygraph examiner must be certified to conduct post-conviction sex offender tests (PCSOT). National certification could include either the APA (American Polygraph Association) or the AAPP, but many states also have their own certification requirements that must be met through state polygraph associations. Whether an examiner is certified nationally, by the state, or both, the certification has to be updated every two years. The examiner can do this by attending continuing education courses in polygraph training.
PCSOT testing is most often sought out by Probation and Corrections Departments, but it is not uncommon for Mental Health Departments who receive convicted sex offenders on a civil commitment to seek out certified examiners as well.
There are a number of tests involved in these program:
Disclosure Test – Over the Instant Offense: This test is designed to break through the offender’s denial of guilt so that their treatment is more effective. The offender needs to not only admit guilt regarding the specific offense that they were convicted for, but also reveal additional sexual acts they may have committed against the victim that were not reported. Only after these previously unreported acts are disclosed can the treatment move forward in a way that most benefits the offender’s rehabilitation.
Disclosure Test – Over the Sexual History: Experts believe that to truly help with rehabilitation, the offender also needs to disclose his or her complete sexual history. Knowing this helps treatment providers to create more effective plans and goals. And, of course, if the offender honestly discloses their full sexual history, it may help to identify additional victims, illegal sexual acts, and other sexual deviances.
Monitoring Test: This periodic test is meant to help reduce recidivism by continually checking in with offenders to make sure that they haven’t relapsed and committed any additional sexual offenses.
Maintenance Test for Probation/Parole Violations: While the monitoring test specifically looks for additional sexual offenses that have occurred since the offender’s release, this test attempts to ascertain that the offender hasn’t violated any of the other terms of their release. These include viewing pornography, using illegal drugs or alcohol, having contact with the victim or their families, “grooming” new potential victims, frequenting places where children are know to be, or any other issue that would show the offender has violated the terms and conditions of his or her probation or parole.
Maintenance Test for Treatment Issues: This test helps treatment providers to develop further individual treatment plans and goals and evaluate offenders’ risk of recidivism while on probation or parole.
Recently published studies of PCSOT show that the programs are working, with previous offenders in some programs being around 95% free of convictions for new sex crimes, around 96% free of convictions for new felonies, and around 89% free of new criminal convictions altogether. Ever better, around 65% had no parole or probation revocations whatsoever.