This study examined whether polygraph testing would result in sex offenders engaging in fewer high-risk behaviors. Fifty adult male sex offenders taking part in community treatment programs were allocated into 2 groups: “Polygraph Aware” subjects were told they would receive a polygraph examination in 3 months regarding their high-risk behaviors, while “Polygraph Unaware” subjects were told their behavior would be reviewed in 3 months. Relevant behaviors for each subject were established at baseline interviews, following which both groups were polygraphed at 3 months. All subjects were polygraphed again at 6 months. The hypothesis was that subjects in the “Polygraph Aware” group would have engaged in fewer high-risk behaviors, based on their self-report during the examination. Thirty-two subjects (64%) attended the first polygraph examination, with 31 (97%) disclosing an average of 2.45 high-risk behaviors each previously unknown to supervising probation officers. There was no significant difference between the two groups. Because of the high failure rate, all subjects were told to expect a second polygraph. Twenty-one subjects (42%) completed the second polygraph test, with 71% disclosing an average of 1.57 behaviors, a significant decrease compared with the first test. Disclosures to treatment providers and probation officers also increased. It was concluded that polygraph testing resulted in offenders engaging in less high-risk behavior, although the possibility that offenders fabricated reports of high-risk behaviours to satisfy examiners is also considered; similarly, offenders seemed to be more honest with their supervisors, but this only occurred after experience of the test itself. Feedback from offenders who completed the study, taken together with the high drop out rate, suggested that those motivated not to reoffend found polygraphy useful, while those less motivated sought to avoid it.
Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 1, 2004
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