Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, Vol. 17, No. 2, April 2005 (
Post-conviction Sex Offender Polygraph
Examination: Client-Reported Perceptions
of Utility and Accuracy
Jill S. Levenson,
and Gerry D. Blasingame
Post-conviction polygraph testing of adult sex offenders in treatment has been
a somewhat controversial subject. This study (n = 95 participants who took
333 polygraph tests) explored how sexual offenders enrolled in outpatient treat-
ment programs perceived their polygraph experience. Participants reported a
relatively low incidence of false indications of both deception (22 of 333 tests)
and truthfulness (11 of 333) tests, suggesting that clients agreed with examiners’
opinions 90% of the time. The majority of clients reported that polygraph testing
was a helpful part of treatment. Finally, about 5% of participants reported that
they responded to allegedly inaccurate accusations of deception by admitting to
things they had not done. The data offer encouragement for continued but cautious
use of polygraphs by sex offender treatment programs. Implications for practice
and research are identiﬁed.
KEY WORDS: sexual offenders; sex offender self-report; sex offender treatment program; polygraph
testing; containment model.
Polygraph examinations have been used to monitor probationers since the
mid-1960’s, and sex offender treatment programs began using polygraph examina-
tions to obtain sexual histories and monitor compliance in the early 1970’s (Abrams
& Abrams, 1993). Over the years, post-conviction sex offender polygraph exam-
ination has become an increasingly important tool used by many sexual offender
treatment programs, particularly those operating as part of a containment triangle
(English, Pullen, & Jones, 1996, 1998). The containment approach emphasizes
Delson Kokish Associates, Trinidad, California.
Lynn University, Boca Raton, Florida.
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To whom correspondence should be addressed at Delson Kokish Associates, Trinidad, California;
2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.