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July 2, 2013

Released sex offenders in Great Britain soon to be required to take regular polygraph tests

Keep-calm-and-protect-kids-from-sex-offenders-6As reported in this article from across the pond, a novel (and apparently somewhat efficacious) approach to sex offender monitoring is being expanded in part of Great Britain after a successful pilot program.  The article is headlined "Lie detector tests set to be introduced to monitor sex offenders: Politicians expected to approve law allowing compulsory polygraph tests of sex offenders released into community," and here are excerpts:

MPs are expected to clear the way for the introduction of compulsory lie detector tests to monitor convicted sex offenders across England and Wales from next January.

The national rollout of US-style mandatory polygraph tests for serious sex offenders who have been released into the community after serving their prison sentence follows a successful pilot scheme. The trial was carried out from 2009-11 in two Midlands probation areas and found that offenders taking such tests were twice as likely to tell probation staff they had contacted a victim, entered an exclusion zone or otherwise breached terms of their release licence.

Continuing concerns about the reliability of the tests and misinterpretation of the results mean they still cannot be used in any court in England and Wales. But it is expected that the compulsory polygraph tests will be used to monitor the behaviour of 750 of the most serious sex offenders, all of whom have been released into the community after serving a sentence of at least 12 months in jail.

The tests involve measuring reactions to specific questions by monitoring heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and levels of perspiration to assess whether the subject is being truthful. The results will be used to determine whether they have breached the terms of their release licence or represent a risk to public safety and should be recalled to prison.

The power to introduce compulsory lie detector tests was put on the statute book six years ago in the Offender Management Act 2007. On Tuesday MPs will debate secondary legislation in the form of a statutory instrument to come into force from 6 January 2014. The House of Lords will be asked to approve it later this month.

The justice minister Jeremy Wright said: "Introducing lie detector tests, alongside the sex offenders register and close monitoring in the community, will give us one of the toughest approaches in the world to managing this group.

"We recently announced the creation of a National Probation Service tasked with protecting the public from the most high-risk offenders. They will be able to call on this technology to help stop sex offenders from reoffending and leaving more innocent victims in their wake."

Hertfordshire police used the tests in a pilot scheme in 2011 to help decide whether to charge suspected sex offenders and gauge the risk they posed to the public. "Low level" sex offenders were involved in the original pilot. At least six revealed more serious offending and were found to pose a more serious risk to children than previously estimated. A further trial was ordered but at the time the Association of Chief Police Officers voiced caution about the adoption of such tests: "Polygraph techniques are complex and are by no means a single solution to solving crimes, potentially offering in certain circumstances an additional tool to structured interrogation," a spokesman said.

Polygraph testing is used in court in 19 states in America, subject to the discretion of the trial judge, but it is widely used by prosecutors, defence lawyers and law enforcement agencies across the US.

I find curious that this article speaks of "US-style mandatory polygraph tests"; I am not aware of any US jurisdiction that uses mandatory polygraph testing as part of a program of sex offender monitoring.  That said, I would not be at all surprised if some jurisdictions in the US were to consider such a requirement if there is good reason to believe that such testing does a reasonable job of sorting out more (and less) dangerous released sex offenders.

Though I suspect a number of civil rights and civil liberties groups in the US would be quick to express concerns about mandatory polygraph tests of sex offenders, I tend to be open-minded about the use of any form of technocorrections that might serve as a means to both increase public safety and ultimately offender liberty.  For if post-release polygraph testing serves as a means to better assess enduring threats from more-dangerous released sex offenders, then other sex offenders can and should be able to rely on such a program to argue for allowing earlier release of some likely less-dangerous sex offenders (e.g., those who download child pornography but have never been involved in any contact offenses).

July 2, 2013 at 01:17 PM | Permalink


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@ Doug:

I do know that some treatment programs, particularly those which are run by the state, include mandatory polygraphy. Treatment is, in most if not all jurisdictions that I am familiar with, a requirement of probation or, if not probated, to become parole eligible.

Posted by: Guy | Jul 2, 2013 2:16:43 PM

Massive rent seeking by psychologists, take tax money and return nothing of value.

Tense up during the control questions, so the baseline is elevated.

Have a whiskey or any other sedative to block adrenalin reactions. Or take a blocker of adrenalin, such as a blood pressure pill.

Then violate the probation of an innocent, but nervous person, and waste massive amounts on the imprisonment of harmless people, as predators troll our streets for victims.

The English are like children.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 2, 2013 2:49:55 PM

Did I forget? Charge the offender a $300 fee for doing the test.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 2, 2013 2:51:45 PM


Like most newspaper articles, it is long on anecdote and short on real unbiased data.

Doug, quick, give me $100. Watch me throw it up in the air and blow away.

You'd get the same results from this type of program.

Posted by: albeed | Jul 2, 2013 3:57:26 PM

What happens if they become defiant before this new law and lash out at police officers like the street rioters protesting Thatcherite austerity measures?

Posted by: william r. delzell | Jul 2, 2013 6:34:49 PM

This isn't a treatment program it is a "trick 'em" program. The polygraph doesn't catch them lying, and they know it. Rather, the goal of the program is to take advantage of sex-offender ignorance because the sex-offender thinks (wrongly) that the lie detector actually works and so are more likely to tell the truth. Disgusting.

It's bad policy for two reasons. First, it doesn't make the public any safer as it only is "security theater". Second, what is going to happen when word gets around (and it will get around) that the government is just tricking people. People will start to lie again, the polygraph won't catch them, and then everyone will think they are safe when they are not. Oh, and there is a 3rd reason. It undermines truth in government when the government starts lying to people in this way. Rather than briging people back into the social fold, it merely mocks people and makes them feel foolish for ever cooperating.

Posted by: Daniel | Jul 2, 2013 9:21:29 PM


You're right but I have another suggestion. Why don't we go to dog-scent line-ups, you know, let the dog alert when someone is lying. They require less pay than a polygraph examiner, and in either case, the result is what LE wants anyway and you can't cross examine a dog.

Rex (on the witness stand), "Rex, did you smell that the offender was lying?"

"Woof, Woof". There you have it your honor!

Oh, and the government lying. How do you know when someone in government is lying?

When they open their mouths. They've been lying to criminals, potential criminals, made-up criminals and now just about everyone for so long that it is now an epidemic so that they wouldn't know the truth if it kicked them 10 times in the butt.

Posted by: albeed | Jul 2, 2013 11:00:59 PM

OK. I bite. The lie detector thingee says that "You LIE!!"

Then what?

It says NOTHING about consequences, or reactions by the government. In the US, they can violate you if you are on parole and they catch you "lying." I'm actually curious what happens in Britain when this occurs.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Jul 2, 2013 11:01:15 PM

What questions do they ask in this test here in the US?
Ask someone who has endured these questions here in the good ole USA.
LE should be put in jail for asking the disgusting questions that they do.

Posted by: athought | Jul 2, 2013 11:55:07 PM

I have to add that it is disappointing to see Prof Berman endorse the use of these horrible exams. As far as I know if you are on Lifetime Supervision it is the equivalent of Lifetime Lie Detector tests.
You may have heard that Lifetime Supervision for downloading porn is very common.

Posted by: athought | Jul 3, 2013 12:01:29 AM

The administration of polys is a standard condition of supervised release by the feds. Lifetime supervised release means semi-annual lifetime polys. Questions are intrusive and extend far beyond anything related to your offense.

Posted by: Lifer | Jul 3, 2013 7:23:58 AM

I have taken both a polygraph test and a test similar to clockwork orange with things attached to me in strange places and had to endure audio and video tests during and still after passing some tests I go to prison 2500 milesaway from home for the next 6 years for downloading and deleting child porn i didn't even know i had. I wasnt arrested for 18 months later when forensic's determined i had a file of unknown origin deleted on my computer.

Posted by: keith h. jordan | Jul 3, 2013 9:06:18 AM


That is sad to hear but it must be of some comfort to know that you were sentenced by the best justice system that ever existed in the history of the universe by laws and sentencing guidelines that the super-majority of an illiterate electorate endorse. An electorate, by the way, who have been publicly indoctrinated, er, I mean educated.

You know, we must sacrifice the individual to the collective.

Posted by: albeed | Jul 3, 2013 1:07:49 PM

In defense of Prof. Berman's favoring technology, the polygraph and other techno procedures are useful as therapeutic conversation starters, as in "You say, you are not attracted to children sexually, your dick says otherwise in a plethysmograph test." "Now, let's talk more about that."

I understand that violating parole or probation has lower standards of fairness than original sentencing, since parole is a privilege, not a right. And that probation is a type of contract. So preponderance (51% likely) is the standard for evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt (80% likely). I also acknowledge that violating the parolee can save his life, if prison removes him from his toxic environment with no chance of improvement.

Nevertheless, in order to preserve the heuristic utility of these technologies, their reputations should not be sullied by highly invalid use to make decisions to send people to prison. They should be reserved for their original purpose as aides to therapy.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 3, 2013 7:15:13 PM

eric going by this. They are not using it to file new charges!

"Continuing concerns about the reliability of the tests and misinterpretation of the results mean they still cannot be used in any court in England and Wales"

as for the US. Lol many states require them now. i think calif is a big one. As for the feebs and thier wandering questions. my respone would be GET FUCKED!

you know first i know the lie detector is a FRAUD! probably why the govt loves it. It's just like them!

Hell even the FBI has admited it does nothing but scare people into confessing.

Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 4, 2013 12:03:39 AM

Yes SC i love the ideal of that illegal device!

""You say, you are not attracted to children sexually, your dick says otherwise in a plethysmograph test." "Now, let's talk more about that."

First talk about forcing someone to testify against themself. forcing thier own body to do it has to be unconstutinal!
Second last time i looked the procedure for the device is to show you a series of photo's among them will be CP. If you respond your guilty!

Last time i looked CP IS ILLEGAL. So why the fuck is the govt showing it to suspected pervs! Never mind conviced ones!

Sorry if professors can be arrested; tried and convicted of looking at CP when trying to research the problem. Why can't law enforcment stupid enough to be doing even more. If they were a citizen.... they would be charged with DISTRIBUTION and PRODUCTION. oh WAIT.....legally they are citizens! Just think their shit don't stink becasue they have a govt job!


Posted by: rodsmith | Jul 4, 2013 12:08:15 AM

I agree that the results of these devices can not be used in a tribunal resulting in punishment. They violate Fifth Amendment due process right to a fair trial. Daubert standards do apply to criminal evidence. These test fail Daubert standards by a wide margin.

When used to benefit the person in voluntary treatment, they are not violations. They should not be used, let alone mandated by force by any government official. One has to wonder where the defense bar traitors will ever do something to advocate on behalf of their clients, other than hand carry plea offers from their good friends, the prosecutors.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 4, 2013 8:55:11 AM

Mandatorey polygraphs are a condition of probation here in the US, and, the offender has to pay for the test. Ridiculous, they are not an accurate predictor of anything.
And as for the plethysmograph, to attach electrodes to the genitals of a sex offender who's offense may have been unintentionally having child porn on their computer, and then "showing" them child porn that is far worse then what was on their computer to begin with, is just plain crazy. And if plethysmographs are so accurate, then the Child Task Force Police who view child porn everyday, shouldn't mind having some electrodes attached to their junk once in awhile, you know, just to make certain there's no movement! If there is, I'm sure they would have some excuse for "unintentional involuntary nervous reaction".

Posted by: kat | Jul 4, 2013 12:36:55 PM

In Oklahoma, parolees/probationers are required to take a polygraph every 6 months, generally at a cost of $150 ($250 for the initial polygraph), as a condition of parole/probation. While counselors argue that the polygraph results should only be used as a counseling tool, Dept of Corrections uses the results for revocation of parole/probation. The S.O. is revoked if he/she refuses to submit to a polygraph.

WHAT 5th Amendment?

Posted by: Oswaldo | Jul 5, 2013 12:27:05 PM

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