What is polygraph testing?
A polygraph is commonly referred to as a “lie detector”. It does not literally detect when a lie is presented but rather whether certain physiological changes occur in response to specific questions. A polygraph machine has sensors which connect to a person and record bodily functions such as breathing rate, pulse, blood pressure and perspiration. Research has shown that these physiological signs often change when a person [knowingly] fails to answer questions truthfully. Polygraph testing is not 100 percent accurate but it is a powerful tool in the management of sex offenders.
Types of Sex Offender Polygraph Examinations
There are generally four types of polygraph examinations used with sex offenders. Each type has specific objectives associated with its use.
Instant Offense exams focus on the details of an offender’s sex offense. Its primary goal is to break down denials regarding exactly what offense conduct was engaged in.
Sexual History exams explore an offender’s sexual behavior in order to determine risk and assist in the treatment process.
Maintenance exams focus on an offender’s compliance with supervision (probation) requirements.
Specific Issue exams address new offenses or behaviors associated with a single concern.
*Polygraph examinations are frequently used as a clinical tool, and as such are an established part of sex offender management.