Fairbanks, Alaska Sex Offenders Face Polygraph Screening

The Associated Press reports in “Convicted sex offenders will take polygraph tests” published 18 November 2006 by the Anchorage Daily News:

FAIRBANKS — Convicted sex offenders in Fairbanks will have to take lie detector tests as a term of their parole or probation.

Plans are under way to expand a polygraph test pilot program started last spring in Anchorage, said Portia Parker, deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Corrections.

“We have to know what’s going on in their heads in order to treat them better,” Parker said Thursday in remarks before a local civic organization.

Studies have found lie detector tests to be an effective tool in monitoring and treating sex offenders, Parker said.

Parker said almost 40 other states already require rapists and pedophiles to undergo polygraph testing upon release from prison. The practice has been challenged in court, but a federal appeals court upheld the use of polygraph testing on a convicted sex offender in May after a New York man sued, saying it violated his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.

Results of polygraph tests are rarely admitted as evidence in court. “This has nothing to do with prosecuting people,” Parker said. “It has nothing to do with court. This is a treatment tool.

“It has a proven positive effect. It puts responsibility on the offender to change their behavior.”

Between 100 and 120 sex offenders are released from prison in Alaska every year, Parker said.

She said the challenge is having a large enough pool of polygraph examiners trained to work with the offenders. The pilot program in Anchorage relies on a contractor who travels here from Washington state.

“We’re not getting resistance from sex offenders to taking the polygraph, but they are being deceptive because they have been for years,” Parker said.

The National Academy of Sciences reportedly rates the median accuracy of polygraph testing on parolees at nearly 90 percent, provided the examiner is properly trained.

Alaska tops the nation for its prevalence of sexual assault and sexual abuse of minors per capita, according to Parker.

It is unclear on what basis it is claimed that the National Academy of Sciences “rates the median accuracy of polygraph testing on parolees at nearly 90 percent, provided the examiner is properly trained.” The NAS’s report, The Polygraph and Lie Detection makes no such claim. On the contrary, the Committee to Review the Scientific Evidence on the Polygraph found (at p. 2) that “Almost a century of research in scientific psychology and physiology provides little basis for the expectation that a polygraph test could have extremely high accuracy.”

British Charity Calls for Polygraph Testing of Pedophiles

BBC News reports on a call by the charity, Barnardo’s, for lie detector testing and GPS tracking of pedophiles in the UK. Excerpt:

Children’s charity Barnardo’s is calling on the government to use lie detector tests and satellite tracking to monitor sex offenders.

It claims pilot studies in the UK have shown promising results.

One such trial found up to 80% of cases showed lie detector tests revealed new information about the offenders’ intentions or behaviour.

Barnardo’s says this helps probation staff assess the risks they pose when they are released from jail better.

Barnardo’s make the claims in its new report, entitled A Risk Too Far? which is published on Tuesday.

It also says such measures will be more effective than the introduction of the proposed Sarah’s Law, which would allow parents to learn of registered sex offenders living in their area.

This is because it believes such a law would drive sex offenders away from supervision and into hiding.

‘False comfort’

This proposed legislation is named after eight-year-old Sarah Payne, who was murdered by paedophile Roy Whiting in 2000.

Barnardo’s chief executive Martin Narey said: “Barnardo’s is committed to protecting children from harm, but we feel that a Sarah’s Law would offer a false comfort to parents and could put children in more, not less, danger.

“That said, the current arrangements for the safe supervision of dangerous offenders need to be strengthened and public confidence restored.

“Our report outlines how the use of polygraphs and satellite tracking could radically improve the effectiveness of supervision.

“All the indications are that polygraphs can be effective in helping control behaviour.

“I have personally seen their use on sex offenders, spoken to the probation staff who have used this technology in a pilot [study] in the North East, and been impressed by the officers’ conviction that it significantly improves the rigour of supervision.”

But human rights group Justice questioned the effectiveness of lie detector tests.

“We’re very doubtful as to any evidence that’s been produced to show that it’s a reliable method,” the group’s policy director Eric Metcalfe told BBC News.

“In our view, this kind of measure has more of a headline effect than actually being demonstrated to be genuinely effective.”

Eric Metcalfe has it right about lie detectors. Regarding British proposals for polygraphing sex offenders, see Dr. Drew C. Richardson’s 21 May 2005 letter to the Telegraph. Barnado’s express concern about policy measures that would provide a false comfort, yet only a false comfort can result from relying on such a widely discredited procedure such as polygraphy. Make-believe science yields make-believe security.

Victoria, Australia: “No Lie Tests for Sex Offenders”

Tanya Giles reports for the Herald Sun:

A RADICAL proposal to force paroled sex offenders to take regular lie detector tests to help stop them reoffending has been rejected.

Police Minister Tim Holding said the Government was sceptical of the reliability of polygraphs as a scientific tool to gather evidence, and would not proceed with tests. “No court in Australia allows polygraph to be submitted as admissible evidence,” he said.

He said the Government had already begun the Sex Offenders Register and introduced the Serious Sex Offenders Monitoring Bill into Parliament so police could keep a close eye on freed sex offenders.

The British Government recently introduced legislation making it compulsory for pedophiles to take polygraph tests so authorities could monitor their behaviour after release.

A third of sex offenders polygraph-tested in Britain in 2003 admitted unsupervised contact with children since being freed.

The program is already used in 36 states in the US as well as in Canada.

But Mr Holding said Victoria set its own laws and did not follow the decisions of other countries.

Last year, FBI-trained forensic polygraph expert Steven Van Aperen briefed the Department of Justice on how the program could be used to help prevent pedophiles re-offending.

Mr Van Aperen, who frequently works on high-profile homicide cases, said polygraphs had been shown to act as an artificial conscience. He said other benefits included:

IDENTIFYING previously unknown victims who could be counselled and help police.

REDUCING the prison population and its costs.

CATCHING repeat offenders.

PROVIDING more effective parole supervision.

A departmental briefing paper on the proposal, seen by the Herald Sun, recommended that the Government not proceed with tests.

Justice policy advisers said polygraphs, which are based on the theory that lying raises anxiety, causes sweating and increases heart and breathing rates, was a highly contentious “scientific” technique.

They raised concerns that using polygraphs as a condition of parole could undermine the new Sex Offenders Register.

The advisers said it could also interfere with the Adult Parole Board’s discretion when releasing prisoners.

UK: “Lie-Detector Tests for Sex Offenders”

The Telegraph reports. Excerpt:

Sex offenders will face compulsory lie-detector tests, the Government has announced.

Ministers want to use polygraph tests on sex offenders who have been released from jail on licence.

The move will ensure they are telling the truth about their behaviour, such as obeying bail conditions to keep away from schools and playgrounds.

The idea has been piloted on a voluntary basis in 10 areas across England but it will now be extended under a new Management of Offenders Bill on a compulsory basis.

UK: “Paedos ‘Can Beat Lie Test'”

Don Mackay reports for the Mirror:

PAEDOPHILES and other sex offenders could fool lie detector tests, experts warned yesterday.

As part of bail conditions the Home Office is drawing up plans to use polygraphs to monitor whether sex offenders will strike again.

But the British Psychological Society said the tests could be beaten – and are anyway far from accurate. One study of polygraph techniques used in criminal probes found up to 17 per cent of guilty suspects “cheated” and were found innocent, while as many as 47 per cent of innocent suspects were classed as guilty.

Tests are based on physical responses – such as increased sweating, heart-rate, blood pressure and respiration – to questions.

But the BPS found subjects could suppress their reactions.

Professor Ray Bull of Leicester University, who chaired the working party, said: “We must not deceive ourselves into thinking there will ever be an error-free way of detecting deception.””

A Home Office spokesman said polygraph tests on sex offenders and others were still at the pilot stage.

He added: “We have found tests encourage offenders to disclose previous offences and current behaviour.”

UK: “Sex Offenders Face Lie Detector”

BBC News reports. Excerpt:

Convicted paedophiles would face mandatory lie detector tests in parts of the UK under plans put forward by the government.

The measure is in the Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill, which was published on Thursday.

The Home Office says 148 tests have been carried out on sex offenders since a pilot scheme began in September 2003.

The bill also contains plans to allow private companies to supervise offenders on community sentences.

The use of lie detector – or polygraph – tests has been piloted in areas across the UK, including Lancashire, Manchester, Devon and London, on volunteers.

Under the proposals, the tests would become mandatory in the pilot areas.

They could be used to help monitor behaviour, such as whether sex offenders are keeping bail conditions to stay away from schools.

The Home Office will see how the tests work in the pilot areas before deciding whether to use them nationwide.

A spokeswoman said: “Protecting the public is our priority. We have a responsibility to keep abreast of modern technological developments to see how they can help us.”

The polygraph is not a “modern technological development.” Rather, as Professor John J. Furedy has put it, it is a “technological flight of fancy” that is “founded on lies.”

UK: “Sex Offenders Forced to Face Lie-Detector Tests Upon Release”

Independent crime correspondent Jason Bennetto reports:

Sex offenders living in the community are to take compulsory lie-detector tests after a study found 85 per cent were reoffending or breaching parole, or had failed polygraph tests.

The Home Office intends to introduce a law to force those offenders released from prison under community and probation orders to take the tests. The move is understood to be part of a pilot study included as a clause in the planned Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill in the coming year.

The police are also considering using polygraphs to help monitor sex offenders and have discussed deploying them in cases involving domestic violence and stalking.

The controversial polygraph tests, which are considered to be 90 per cent accurate, can detect when people are lying by measuring changes in breathing, heart rate and sweating.

The move towards a compulsory system follows the results of the continuing pilot study in which 200 convicted sex offenders, who are mostly paedophiles but include some rapists, have volunteered for tests. The results, which were disclosed to The Independent, revealed that 85 per cent either failed or disclosed information about reoffending, breaching the conditions of their community orders, or were experiencing deviant behaviour involving children. Within the 85 per cent, about two-thirds made disclosures of information that had not been known to their probation officers. About 20 per cent failed the polygraph test without making a disclosure, but revealed information that needed further investigation.

The testers were not allowed to ask the sex offenders whether they had reoffended, but some volunteered the information, including one man who admitted having sex with an underage victim.

At first the new power for compulsory tests will be used in the project in which a total of 200 sex offenders have so far undergone a polygraph test. If this study is successful, the mandatory scheme is expected to be adopted nationally. The Probation Service, which along with the Home Office and police has been exploring the use of polygraphs, is enthusiastic about the use of lie detectors in managing sex offenders. The National Probation Directorate is drawing up plans for a possible regulatory body that could oversee the training and qualifications of polygraph testers.

Don Grubin, professor of forensic psychiatry at Newcastle University, who is leading the polygraph study, said: “We have discussed the use of polygraphs with the police.

“They are not using it at the moment, but are interested in trying it out in certain situations. They have indicated that it could be used in managing sex offenders, cases of domestic violence and people with a history of stalking. They are reluctant to use it in a criminal investigation, but I think there is some potential there.”

Professor Grubin described the results of the current tests as “startling”. “Most of these guys who are put before the polygraph just admit it all.” Asked why offenders who were breaking their release conditions would volunteer to take a lie test, he replied: “There are some who want to prove they are low risk and think they can beat the polygraph.” It can also be used to show that a former offender is sticking to his treatment and is no longer a danger.

In July last year Home Office and police representatives visited the FBI in Washington, the Department of Defence in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and a private polygraph-testing centre to investigate lie detectors, which are widely used in the US.

Liz Hill, the head of public protection at the National Probation Directorate, who is overseeing the tests for the Home Office, said: “One of the things we learnt was that if you are going to go down this route you need a regulatory body.”

The UK agencies involved in developing lie detectors have said the test can only be used as an indicator. The machines would not be used to gather evidence to be used in court.


The creator of the comic strip character Wonder Woman also invented the first lie detector, or polygraph.

But the original device, unveiled by the psychologist William Marston in 1917, was widely criticised and has been replaced by far more sophisticated techniques.

Polygraphs are being used in a UK pilot study of 200 male sex offenders in nine regions around England. The Home Office believes they could be a useful tool in managing sex offenders.

The test measures changes in the rates of breathing, sweating and heart activity. The subject has tubes going round his chest and abdomen to measure breathing. Blood pressure is also recorded, and two flat rods are stuck to the subject’s palm and finger to measure sweating.

These calculations indicate arousal in the subject. The theory behind the polygraph is that arousal is a non-voluntary part of the nervous system. If the subject’s response pattern is greatly altered then it indicates that they are lying.

The sex offenders take up to three sets of questions, to which the answer is yes or no. One test is “sex history disclosure” in which the offender is questioned about victims and other behaviour. The “maintenance test” involves the offender being questioned about whether he is sticking to conditions of parole. Under the “specific issue test”, the subject is questioned about aspects of an offence that they are denying. Only about 15 per cent of the offenders taking part in the British trial passed their polygraph test first time.

The claim that lie detectors “are considered to be 90 per cent accurate” is one that is only being made by those with vested interests in promoting polygraphy, and flies in the face of the broad consensus amongst scientists that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis. The claim that William Marston’s polygraph technique “has been replaced by far more sophisticated techniques” is also misleading. The “control question test” that is the standby technique of the polygraph community can hardly be characterized as “sophisticated.” On the contrary, it is highly simplistic and easily thwarted by the use of simple countermeasures that polygraphers cannot reliably detect.

UK: “Plans for Paedophile Lie Tests”

The BBC reports:

Convicted paedophiles could be forced to take lie detector tests to ensure they stay away from children, under plans by Home Secretary David Blunkett.

He wants compulsory testing in Sussex, Northumberland and the West Midlands – currently piloting voluntary tests.

Probation officers would ask offenders whether they had had contact with children since their release from jail.

But reports suggest there is concern among some Cabinet members over the use of the US-style polygraph test.

‘Ensuring public safety’

A Home Office spokeswoman said the tests would accompany other methods, such as electronic tagging, to monitor the behaviour of offenders following their return to the community.

The Home Office spokeswoman said: “(Lie detector) testing is carried out purely on a voluntary basis in the pilots.

“We are not talking about a countrywide expansion of the scheme.

“What we are looking for now is to make these pilots mandatory so that we can fully assess the effectiveness of lie-detector tests in helping to monitor sex offenders and ensure the safety of the public.”

I accept that this is not without controversy. Given the controversial nature of these proposals, I am consulting Peter Goldsmith

Mr Blunkett has told the Cabinet he is hoping to bring in legislation to extend the current voluntary trial in several parts of England.

But reports on Sunday suggested that the proposal to move from voluntary to compulsory testing had sparked concern in the Cabinet.

The Sunday Times quoted Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt – a former head of the National Council for Civil Liberties – as requesting “further evidence” before a decision is reached on whether to push ahead with the necessary legislation.

Polygraphs – which measure changes in breathing, heart-rates and sweat in response to questioning – are considered to be only around 90% accurate, which could lead to fears over their authority in cases of increased monitoring or tagging of paedophiles.


Mr Blunkett is reported to have accepted his proposals are “not without controversy” and to be consulting Attorney General Lord Goldsmith on the legal implications.

Tests would not be used to gather evidence for court cases and offenders would not be returned to jail purely on the basis of polygraph results.

It is believed that the prospect of compulsory tests would act as a deterrent against breaches of offenders’ terms of release.

The Sunday Times report includes extracts from what it says is a leaked letter from Mr Blunkett to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott on 20 July.

The Home Secretary asks for Cabinet approval for legislation, which he said would be “an additional weapon in the armoury against sex offenders”.

Contact with children

He added: “I accept that this is not without controversy. Given the controversial nature of these proposals, I am consulting Peter Goldsmith.”

So far voluntary trials in Northumberland, the West Midlands and Sussex have reportedly been judged a success.

In one trial, 32 offenders volunteered for tests and a third admitted having unsupervised contact with children, according to the Sunday Times.

The BBC is mistaken in reporting that polygraphs “are considered to be only around 90% accurate.” In fact, it’s much worse than that: there is broad consensus amongst scientists that polygraph “testing” has no scientific basis. And it has not been proven through peer-reviewed research to reliably work at better-than-chance levels under field conditions.

UK: “Lie Detector Plan Worries Cabinet”

Home affairs editor Alan Travis reports for the Guardian.

Home Office plans to introduce compulsory lie detector tests to ensure that convicted paedophiles do not offend again are worrying cabinet members.

The home secretary, David Blunkett, has admitted to his cabinet colleagues that the plans “are not without controversy” and is seeking legal clearance from Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general.

A leaked ministerial letter dated July 20 shows that Patricia Hewitt, the trade and industry secretary, a former head of the National Council for Civil Liberties, wants “further evidence” before a decision is reached this summer to push ahead with the necessary legislation.

Mr Blunkett has asked the cabinet to approve the plan, describing the polygraph tests as “an additional weapon in the armoury against sex offenders”.

When the Guardian disclosed the scheme in May the human rights organisation Liberty, the NCCL’s successor, said it would raise no fundamental objections as long as the results were not used in court as evidence and would help prevent reoffending.

The shadow home secretary, David Davis, has also said their use could be beneficial.

The American polygraph technology is being considered alongside the introduction of satellite tracking of convicted sex offenders to monitor their behaviour after their release on licence from prison.

A voluntary two-year trial in 12 of the 42 probation areas, including Northumbria, the West Midlands and Sussex, is understood to have been judged a success. It has involved 120 convicted sex offenders, who have been tested every six months.

Five polygraph machines have been used in the trials. They measure changes in breathing, heart rate and sweat in response to questioning, and officials believe they can be used to establish, along with other evidence, whether convicted sex offenders are telling the truth about whether they have been trying to contact children.

“We’re not talking about a countrywide expansion of the scheme,” a Home Office spokeswoman said yesterday.

“What we’re looking for now is to make these pilots mandatory so that we can fully assess the effectiveness of lie detector tests in helping to monitor sex offenders and ensure the safety of the public.”

She stressed that the tests would not be used to gather evidence admissible in court, which is the source of much of the controversy surrounding their use in the US.

Nor will anybody be sent back to prison solely on the evidence of the results of a polygraph tests. “They are being used only as a limited management tool to support a range of other methods employed to monitor and supervise sex offenders,” the spokeswoman said.

Mr Blunkett has acknowledged the controversial nature of lie detector tests before.

“We are all a bit sceptical, because we’ve all been brought up with the spy films and the way in which the KGB are allegedly able to train people to avoid them. But we are talking about really modern technology in the 21st century, and we are testing it,” he said when he launched the idea in June.

“It won’t only just pick up whether a person is lying, it will also be a major deterrent to people actually telling an untruth when they are under supervision and when it is necessary to find out what they’ve been up to.”

Florida Woman’s Probation Extended Based on Polygraph Results

Missy Stoddard reports for the Tampa Tribune in an article titled, “Judge Keeps Woman’s Probation.” This short article is cited here in full:

DADE CITY – A judge Monday denied a request to terminate the probation of a former Zephyrhills woman who had sex with two neighborhood teens.

Zephyrhills police arrested Lynne Cunneen, 37, in May 2000 after two boys, then 13 and 14, reported that Cunneen performed sex acts on them and sometimes gave them alcohol.

In October 2001, Cunneen pleaded no contest to two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation.

She was sentenced to a year of house arrest followed by two years of probation.

Circuit Judge Wayne Cobb denied Cunneen’s request for early termination of probation based in part, he said, because she failed a polygraph exam required as part of the terms of her probation.

Her attorney, Chip Mander, objected to the polygraph being considered, saying it is improper for the court to do so. Also, he does not know what questions she allegedly failed, he said.

Cobb told Mander that Cunneen can renew her request in six months.