Post-Conviction Sex Offender Polygraph Testing (PCSOT) aims to increase public safety by validating sex offender risk management, risk assessment, and treatment decisions. PCSOT assists professionals in supervising the rehabilitation of convicted sex offenders in community settings
PCSOT relies on the principles and knowledge derived from existing polygraph testing, research, risk management, risk assessment, and behavioral or mental health treatment of sex offenders. Examiners must be cautious about instituting field practices based on their beliefs or values.
The polygraph testing of sex offenders requires the examiner to take an impartial stance on the situation. They cannot let their opinions of the sex offender influence the outcome of the testing procedure. An evidence-based approach ensures a fair and just result from the polygraph exam.
The Types of PCSOT Examinations
PCSOT examinations cover six areas, sexual history disclosure exams, maintenance exams, specific issue denial tests, instant offense Investigations, prior allegation examinations, and parental risk assessments.
These exam types provide a frame and time of reference for each polygraph test. Examiners must not mix their investigation targets from different frames or times of contact within a single PCSOT test.
Full Disclosure Sexual History Polygraph Examination (SHE)
This polygraph exam tests convicted sex offenders who don’t deny their crime. The Full Disclosure Sexual History Examination is administered after the sex offender is in treatment for a minimum of 90 days but less than six months.
When starting their sex offender treatment, the convicted offender will immediately receive a sexual history questionnaire, victim form, and instruction Sheet. The examiner will also explain the testing process and answer questions from the sex offender.
The Sexual History Polygraph Examination aims to investigate the offender’s life history and their role in victimizing others. The test covers the offender’s lifetime history of sexual preoccupation, deviancy, and compulsive behaviors.
The auxiliary purpose of the sexual history polygraph examination focuses on the offender’s contact with underage victims and people under the age of consent. It’s important to note that the test is only for risk assessment and treatment purposes.
The examiner will review the test questionnaire with the therapist to confirm the exam’s accuracy and completeness. The examiner will complete one victim form for each victim. The therapist’s sign-offs on the exam questions were indicated before starting the polygraph test with the offender.
Maintenance Polygraph Examinations (MPA)
The polygraph exam provides a thorough investigation of the offender’s compliance with designated terms and conditions of treatment and probation, either randomly or periodically.
It’s recommended maintenance examinations be administered every six months to 12 months. Maintenance examinations address a time of reference after the conviction date or previous polygraph exam, typically not exceeding one to two years in exceptional circumstances.
The probation officer and treatment provider considers the deterrent benefits of random scheduling maintenance exams for offenders. Any terms and conditions of probation or treatment are selected as exam targets.
Investigative goals for maintenance exams emphasize the verification or development of information, adding validity to the early detection of escalating threat levels to potential victims or the community. Information developed in maintenance exams may be used by probation officers or treatment providers when instituting sanctions on the offender.
The therapist or probation officer provides information that is confirmed with the offender. The offender must receive copies of the conditions of probation before administering the test.
Specific Issue Denial Test (Instant Offense)
This polygraph exam addresses the offender in denial of their crimes or when their admission is far apart from the stated court records.
The exam is administered as soon as possible. This allows the offender to identify the victim and take responsibility for their deviant actions. Investigative or police reports must include victim statements before administering the exam.
Instant Offense Investigative (IOI)
The containment team can utilize the Instant Offense Investigative (IOI) polygraph exam when testing the limitations of the sex offender’s behavior. It also searches for offenses or behaviors not included in the allegations relating to the original crime.
This exam is completed before clarification or reunification with the victim. Test parameters include the number of sexual offenses against the victim, violence, force, invasive offense behaviors, and other sexual behavior.
Prior Allegation Examination (PAE)
Containment teams can utilize Prior Allegation Exams (PAE) when investigating and resolving prior alleged sex offenses made before the offender’s conviction. They complete these tests before attempting to investigate and resolve an offender’s unknown sexual offense history.
This polygraph test is nearly identical to the Instant Offense Exam’s design and structure. However, the details of allegations stem from an allegation before their conviction, resulting in supervision and treatment, not the present crime.
Parental Risk Assessment (PRA)
Containment teams can utilize the PRA Examination when reunifying offenders with children. This polygraph test assists with the risk assessment of the offender by the containment team. It focuses on the offender’s past sexual behavior involving minors and specific sexual behavior toward their children.
This exam is utilized in early treatment when the court orders reunification, and there’s not enough time to complete a Full Disclosure Sexual History polygraph exam. If the offender has already completed a Full Disclosure Sexual History exam, there may not require a PRA examination.
PCSOT Method of Execution
The psychological and physical harm caused by sex offenses is traumatic. Probation and pretrial service officers must prioritize mitigating this impact on victims while preventing further sex crimes. Not all suspects or offenders are alike in their crimes and their behavior.
Instead, they present a wide spectrum of therapeutic needs and criminogenic risks. As a result, the officer’s supervisor and investigation techniques must vary to the case at hand. The polygraph exam measures physiological responses such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory patterns, and skin responses while the offender undergoes the questioning process.
The exam consists of the examiner recording these physiological measurements, interpreting the exam results, and offering expert opinions.
PCSOT Testing Procedures and Best Practices
Examiners in PCSOT must adhere to accepted polygraph testing protocols and best practices. Failing to maintain test policies results in a biased test and outcome that may alter the fate of the examinee.
Here are the best practices and procedures every examiner must follow to maintain an impartial and unbiased test result that holds up in court.
Case Background Info
The polygraph examiner must request and review the case details when preparing for the exam. The examiner must enter the polygraph test with prepared questions and a thorough understanding of the case specifics.
Examiners must record the PCSOT session. The recording must occur from the start of the pretest interview to the completion of the exam. There is no interruption in the recording. The examiner must retain the recording for three years from the exam date.
Recording the test session documents the conduct of the examiner and the offender, determining the quality of the exam protocol and information provided by the offender. This strategy precludes the possibility of a future denial by the offender, facilitating the need for quality assurance review when required.
The polygraph examiner must conduct a thorough interview of the offender before moving on to the test phase of the process.
A pretest interview consists of the following:
Greeting and introduction
The examiner introduces themselves to the offender and orients them with the room and equipment. They provide a brief overview of the procedure and scope of the exam before obtaining authorization and release to undertake the test.
Informed Consent by the Offender
Polygraph examiners must obtain the examinee’s informed consent before initiating the test. The offender can submit their consent in writing or on the audio-visual recording of the interview. In some cases, the offender will need to sign a release.
The language in the release must include the following.
- The offender’s voluntary consent to take the exam.
- They may terminate the exam anytime they want to during the test.
- An assessment statement regarding the offender’s mental and physical health at the examination.
- A registered account provides the offender with all information regarding the polygraph exam.
- A statement that all information is released to members of the community supervision team.
- A statement that admission of unlawful activities is not concealed from the community supervision team.
- A statement regarding the audio/video recording of the session.
Biographical Data and Suitability for the Exam
The polygraph examiner must obtain information regarding the offender’s background. This info includes marital and family status, children, place of employment, and living situation. The examiner must have a copy of the review of the reason for conviction and the sentence received.
Before the examination, the examiner must obtain information regarding the examinee’s mental and physical health to determine their suitability for undergoing the PCSOT.
Explanation of Examination Procedures and Polygraph Instrumentation
The exam includes a description of the process to the offender. This consists of an explanation of the polygraph instrumentation involved in the session. It also includes the physiological and psychological responses of their responses to the questions.
Nothing in the explanation should construe as favoring a basis of polygraph science. Typically, the examiner integrates an approach using an explanation of emotional attributions, cognitive and behavioral learning theory,
The Examiner conducts a thorough, structured pretest interview. This interview includes a comprehensive review of the examinee’s personal information and background. This has an applicable background, case facts, and a review of issues of concern.
The examiner must include an opportunity for the offender to give their side of the story of all issues under investigation. The examiner includes a narrative-free interview for event-specific investigative/diagnostic polygraphs of known sex offender allegations or incidents.
Reviewing Test Questions
The examiner reviews and explains test questions to the offender before moving on to the test phase of the exam.
The examiner will not proceed until they’re satisfied with the offenders understanding and response to issues of concern.
The examiners must not plan to conduct exams under 90 minutes from the beginning of the pretest interview to the end of the post-test interview phase of the exam.
The only time the examiner may conduct an interview process under 90 minutes is when there are challenging circumstances, such as when an offender isn’t suitable for testing, when the investigation is resolved before data collection, or if an examinee refuses to continue with the process.
Polygraph examiners must have the final responsibility and authority to determine test questions and language, which are reviewed with the treatment and supervision professionals.
Examiners must advise the treatment and supervision professionals to refrain from informing the offender of the exam questions and specific investigation targets. They must not coach the offender in the principles and mechanics of the polygraph exam.
The offender can refer technical questions regarding the polygraph examination process directly to the examiner at the time of the test. Examiners must advise treatment professionals and supervision team members that it’s appropriate to inform the offender of the purpose of each examination.
Interpretation of Exam Results
Polygraph examiners must render their professional opinion using established and published decision guidelines to accurately interpret the test results. Examiners would render their opinion if the offender displayed deceptive behavior when test results are DI or SR for the investigation targets.
Examiners must render their professional opinion if the offender displayed truthful behavior when test results are NDI or NSR for investigation targets. Examiners must not state an offender is deceptive in their response to investigation targets or non-deceptive in their response to other investigation targets in the same exam.
In Closing – Distribution of PCSOT Polygraph Exam Results
The examiner will provide the polygraph exam report to the supervision team members involved in the risk assessment, risk management, and intervention/treatment activities.
Dissemination to Authorities
Reports must be released to the parole board, court, releasing agency, or professionals as required by law or at the discretion of the community supervision team.
Communication Post Exam
After completing the post-exam review, the polygraph examiner must avoid communicating with the offender or their family members regarding the outcome of the test results.