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May 14, 2017

Notable review of Colorado's recent experiences and concerns with polygraph testing of sex offenders

The Denver Post has this interesting article about the monitoring and testing of sex offenders in the Centennial State.  The piece is headlined "Colorado’s pricey polygraph testing of sex offenders under fire as critics target accuracy, expense: Psychologist calls state’s $5 million polygraph program 'grossly excessive' as state legislature examines cost."  Here are some excerpts from the extended piece:

Colorado has spent more than $5 million to administer polygraphs on convicted sex offenders over the last seven years despite concerns that the tests are so unreliable they can’t be used as evidence during civil or criminal trials.

Polygraphs help officials decide which prisoners convicted of sex offenses are suited for release from prison by probing their sexual history, attitudes about their crimes and whether they are committing new offenses.  They also guide how offenders on parole or probation are supervised.  “The polygraph really gives useful information,” said Lenny Woodson, administrator for the Colorado Department of Corrections’ Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program. “And we’ve made it clear in our standards that it isn’t to be used in isolation. We’re using as many avenues as possible to make treatment decisions.”

But a bipartisan cross-section of legislators and a retired judge have joined with offenders and their families to question the validity of the tests.  They contend too much weight is placed on what they argue is little more than junk science.  Flawed polygraphs can complicate efforts for low-risk sex offenders to get paroled and lead to new restrictions for parolees or probationers, critics say.  Failure to take the tests can lead to sanctions, including eventual revocation to prison.

Studies show that up to 70 percent of U.S. states polygraph sex offenders, but experts have testified that Colorado uses the tests aggressively, even polygraphing juvenile offenders for consensual sexting.  Critics contend an entrenched and profitable cottage industry, rife with conflicts of interests, has grown up around polygraphing sex offenders in Colorado.  “To me, there is no question that it borders on a scam,” said Senate President pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling.  “We incentivize the people who give the polygraph tests to have inconclusive results so an offender has to go back and pay for another one on a more regular basis.”

Colorado’s polygraphing is “grossly excessive,” said Deirdre D’Orazio, a psychologist who serves as an expert on a high-risk sex-offender task force in California, during testimony in federal court in Denver in 2015.  D’Orazio led a team of consultants that issued a report for the Colorado department of corrections in 2013 blasting how it manages sex offenders and how it uses polygraphs.  She returned to the state to testify for Howard Alt, then 51, who a decade earlier was convicted for having sex with a 15-year-old girl and possessing nude computer images of teenage girls.

After his release from prison, Alt had taken 28 polygraphs, often with competing results.  The treatment provider that tested Alt had a “fiduciary incentive conflict” to fail him, D’Orazio said.  The firm was “making money on outcomes that are not in the offender client’s favor” by requiring him to pay for more tests and treatment, she said.

A deceptive finding on one sex-history polygraph had prompted supervision officials to bar Alt, a former software developer, from accepting a job that would raise his salary from $60,000 to $200,000 annually.  Months later, the polygrapher found Alt to be truthful on the same questions even though he did not change his answers, showing the sanction against him was unwarranted, D’Orazio said.  “It is not a scientifically valid procedure,” D’Orazio testified.  “It has a high false-positive rate, which means misclassifying people who are telling the truth as being deceitful. So there is a lot of controversy about using the polygraph in high-stakes decisions.”...

The state of Colorado, relying on court fees paid by those convicted of sex crimes, picks up the tab of the polygraphs for those who are in prison and also often for the indigent who are out on parole or probation.  But when the state fund that pays for the tests runs out of money, parolees and probationers who don’t have the money to pay for them risk running afoul of their supervision requirements.  Revocation to prison can occur for refusing to take the polygraphs, defense lawyers say....

In addition to the legislators, C. Dennis Maes, former chief judge of Pueblo District Court, has criticized the use of polygraphs in Colorado.  He has written to the chief judges of all judicial districts in the state and to Nancy Rice, chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, urging a halt to polygraphing sex offenders, pointing out the results can’t be admitted as evidence during civil or criminal trails.  After his retirement, he represented a sex offender on probation, and was shocked when the results of his polygraph were admitted as evidence during a court hearing.

“The Constitution applies to everyone,” Maes said.  “It doesn’t apply to everyone except sex offenders.  The Constitution was designed to protect those that might be the most easily attacked by the government, even sex offenders.  You don’t see polygraphs in any other area of the law.  You can be the most prolific bad-check writer ever and you don’t have to take them, but you do if you’re a sex offender.”

The Denver Post has this companion article headlined "Professional polygrapher holds position of power on state’s sex-offender treatment board: Jeff Jenks’ firm will receive $1.9 million to test sex offenders in Colorado prisons as he sits on the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board"

May 14, 2017 at 08:48 PM | Permalink


I do not want to be repetitive.

See me here.


Posted by: David Behar | May 14, 2017 8:59:26 PM

Polygraph all sex accusers.


This also justifies the removal of the Israeli equivalent of Jeff Sessions, based on his policy prosecutorial immunity of false accusations of sexual offenses. The overwhelming fraction of allegations are false, especially where the parties knew each other. The chance a normal woman will be sexually assaulted by a stranger is infinitesimally small.

I have proposed the penalty for false statement to government officials by lying feminists be the maximum, 2 years of prison for a second degree misdemeanor. All false accusers of President Trump should be prosecuted and receive that maximum.


Feminist groups suborning false allegations should be sued by the victims of the false accusations. The responsible officials of such feminist groups should not be able to hide behind any corporate veil.

In Italy, the false allegation got a feminist 12 years.


Back to the Israeli immunity granted to feminist false accusers. They made Israeli women unmarriageable, and unemployable.

Israeli men should convert to Islam, which still respects the patriarchal family.

Posted by: David Behar | May 15, 2017 12:29:37 AM

Let me make this this perfectly clear to everyone, including those who have been hindered by a law degree and ex-prosecutors who are now judges (some of the lowest life forms on earth and now members of both state and federal Supreme Courts).

The entire sex-offender industry as it is currently constructed is a SCAM with a capital S. It's false premises financially benefit LE, monitoring companies, state evaluators/therapists, polygraph examiners and you name it. Money is its mother's milk and you can follow the money. It is a cheap way for lawmakers to prey on soccer moms unfounded and misguided fears to become ever more efficient and lying vote-whores.

It will truly take some Herculean efforts to turn the way this battleship is going to the detriment of both taxpayers AND the Constitution.

Posted by: albeed | May 15, 2017 7:39:10 AM

Well Said!

Posted by: kat | May 15, 2017 2:28:34 PM

Not really albeed. Based on the original 2002 doe v Smith decision the registry scheme built over the last 15 years or so is plainly illegal in its face. No new judgement is needed.they plainly stated what was legal AND what would have made it ILLEGAL every one of those items are now required on pain of decades of prison.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | May 15, 2017 11:47:14 PM

How long before former sex offenders decide to become militant and organize themselves against these restrictions the way Black Panthers and others banded together to combat police brutality and other injustices against the "have note?"

Posted by: william r. delzell | May 16, 2017 10:07:06 AM

Polygraph generally worthless and no better than flip of a coin. As stated by the Supreme Court, some studies have found that "the accuracy rate of the “control question technique” polygraph is “little better than could be obtained by the toss of a coin,” that is, 50 percent.See Iacono & Lykken, The Scientific Status of Research on Polygraph Techniques: The Case Against Polygraph Tests, in 1 Modern Scientific Evidence, supra, § 14–5.3, at 629"

U.S. v. Scheffer, 118 S.Ct. 1261, 1265, 523 U.S. 303, 309–10 (U.S.,1998)

Posted by: Michael R. Levine | May 17, 2017 7:40:27 AM

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