Feds using lie detectors in parole despite scientific invalidity

The federal justice system still uses polygraphs to test whether certain sex offenders are remorseful, even though the polygraph has been found scientifically unsound. Moreover, the test may actually encourage nondisclosure and inhibit treatment.

An assistant U.S. Attorney has asked a federal court to order “therapeutic polygraph” tests for a sex offender as part of his five-year conditional release period. The man was convicted of possessing over 6,000 photos and videos considered to be child pornography. He has served his 18-month sentence and has already been ordered to engage in regular therapy as one of the conditions. His therapist testified the defendant was “forthcoming and engaged.”

Therapeutic polygraphy, in theory, is meant to break through the defendant’s “denial and resistance” in therapy, but this seems to be an example of government skepticism rather than therapeutic need. The defendant insists he downloaded the images and videos after stumbling upon them and found them “morbidly intriguing” rather than sexually arousing. His reaction to the photos has no bearing on his guilt or innocence.

Nevertheless, his explanation didn’t satisfy the U.S. Attorney’s office, which sought to have the tests court-ordered. Even though the federal system has used it on sex offenders for decades, the federal judge was highly critical of the proposal and grilled witness after witness in a three-hour hearing.

American Psychological Association: There’s little evidence polygraphs work

In its groundbreaking treatise “The Truth About Lie Detectors,” the American Psychological Association explains that there isn’t enough connection between lying and the physiological markers tested by polygraph machines for the tests to be accurate.

“At most, the polygraph has been deemed to be 80 percent-to-90 percent accurate, meaning that up to 1 in 5 patients submitting to the test will be found, wrongly, to be lying,” explained a defense witness, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist known for providing technical advice on “Law and Order” and other legal dramas.

She went on to say that mandating such a test is likely to create anxiety, undercut the therapeutic alliance, create resistance to treatment and encourage nondisclosure by the patient.

The man’s defense attorney called the practice into question, arguing that the U.S. Attorney and a government contractor known as the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers are using law enforcement practices and calling them treatment. Even the contractor’s name, which refers to its patients by the law enforcement phrase “sexual abusers” indicates its questionable therapeutic validity.

The defense wants to stop this expensive, unscientific practice from being mandated in this defendant’s case -- and to keep it from becoming entrenched in the federal supervised release system.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • Badge 1
  • Badge 2
  • Badge 3
  • Badge 4
  • Badge 5
  • Badge 6
  • Badge 7
  • Badge 8

Contact O'Brien Hatfield, PA for a free case evaluation today

In Tampa, call (813) 345-4909. In Orlando, call (888) 496-5916 . For fast answers, email us using the form below.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

Footer Brand

Tampa Bay Office
511 West Bay Street Suite 330
Tampa, FL 33606

Toll Free: 888-496-5916
Phone: 813-345-4909
Tampa Law Office Map

Central Florida Office
121 South Orange Avenue Suite 1500
Orlando, FL 32801

Toll Free: 888-496-5916
Phone: 407-808-6750
Orlando Law Office Map

South Florida Office
Northbridge Tower
515 North Flagler Drive
Suite P-300
West Palm Beach, FL 33401

Toll Free: 888-496-5916
South Florida Office Map

South Florida Office
Brickell Bay Office Tower
1001 Brickell Bay Drive
Suite 2700 M-1
Miami, FL 33131

Toll Free: 888-496-5916
Phone: 305-909-0624
Miami Law Office Map