Sexual Offender Polygraph Testing

Kim English is research director for the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, Department of Public Safety. Also with the Division, Suzanne Pullen is senior research and policy analyst and Linda Jones is a program administrator and staff to the Colorado Sex Offender Treatment Board.

Points of view expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, Department of Public Safety, or of the U.S. Department of Justice.


Polygraph examinations to obtain complete sexual history information and to monitor the offender's deviant fantasies and external behaviors -- particularly access to victims. Data obtained during the polygraph examination provide vital management and compliance feedback to the treatment provider and probation/parole officer.

Maintaining close communication and acting as a team, the treatment provider, probation/parole officer, and polygraph examiner form a triangle of supervision, with the offender contained in the middle.

Sex offenders must waive confidentiality of the information they divulge because containment depends on the constant sharing of information by and among team members, other criminal justice professionals, family members, and others, such as employers and church officials.

In pursuing safe and effective treatment of sex offenders in the community, therapists must obtain full disclosure of offenders' sexual histories. Sex offenders must examine carefully their lives and recognize as dysfunctional the situations, relationships, emotional states, attitudes, and behaviors that they may be considering as "normal."

Use of the polygraph helps ensure that offenders fully reveal their sexual histories -- information that is essential to the development of effective treatment programs.

To the observation that polygraph results may not always be accurate, the rejoinder is that they have been found to be significantly more reliable, on average, than offenders' self-reported histories.

National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Justice Information Center - U.S. Department of Justice - February 1999.