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CO: Pricey polygraph testing of sex offenders under fire as critics target accuracy, expense

Colorado has spent more than $5 million to administer polygraph tests on convicted sex offenders over the last seven years, despite concerns that the results are so unreliable that they can’t be used at trial.

Polygraphs, often called lie-detector tests, are used to determine which prisoners convicted of sex offenses are suited for release 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.

But a bipartisan group of legislators has joined offenders in questioning the validity of the tests, saying too much weight is placed on what they call junk science, The Denver Post reported . They also say a profitable cottage industry has grown up around polygraphing sex offenders in the state. Full Article

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“They also say a profitable cottage industry has grown up around polygraphing sex offenders in the state.
“‘To me, there is no question that it borders on a scam,’ said Senate President pro-tem Jerry Sonnenberg, a Republican from 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.'”

No…I’m sure that’s not happening at all.


I am not surprised that the decision in U.S. v. Scheffer does not apply here.

So, in states where the courts have allowed polygraph tests for “sex offenders,” it would be safe to assume the positive results of a test for a defendant in any criminal court case can be used to free him from prosecution? If not, why are they allowed in this case? They are either inherently unreliable, or they are accurate.


I’m not sure how Colorado used the poly in their legal system, but in California the poly is given to SO’s but the results cannot be directly used against you legally to violate you. What it can be used for is to trigger an investigate (say it shows you lied about viewing child pornography, they can use that as a guide to now check your internet devices) or place additional terms on you (say you it shows you lied about consuming alcohol when its against your terms, they can now require you attend AA meetings). But they cannot use it against you as direct evidence for further prosecution.

When used as part of your actual treatment and not maintenance for probation/parole, its generally given towards the end of your treatment program for the therapist to gauge that you’ve been truthful about your general sex history. If you fail, the therapist may recommend to probation to extend your treatment time.

This year our county started doing random maintenance poly’s and my treatment program therapist hates that they do that. He sees it as very counteractive to treatment as it places both stress and financial burden on people, particularly those on probation as they have to pay out of pocket (paroles have treatment costs covered by the state). Some of the guys literally pay with change for their weekly group therapy and requiring them to now come up with $300-400 dollars multiple times a year for a poly is incredibly hard for many. From what he understands, our county board was basically brainwashed into doing these by the poly organization, pretty much what the article talks about.

In Florida, you are required by statue to take a polygraph at least once a year while you are in treatment. You are right about use in treatment to extend/demote. I “confessed” that i had taken my son to an amusement park. My PO considered that to be what he called “constructive contact” with other children even though I didn’t have full contact restrictions. He tried to prevent me from traveling out of state to visit my kids and the court had to dress him down after a lot futile and legal expense.. My therapist considered it a dumb move and demoted me a level in treatment for 2 months and then bought my back up to where i had been.

In Florida, the results of a polygraph are not permitted to be used as evidence in a prosecution or probation/parole violation. They are used for”treatment purposes” but we know that the law will use them as a “guide”to try to find other evidence that they can use. 😉
My experience was that the results of a polygraph examination oft times depends on what the exmainer is looking for. If he believes that you are lying just because of who you are, you will probably get either an inconclusive or “deception detected’ result. If the examiner is nominally honest and at least tries to come in with no preconceived notions, then the result will be more “accuarate” I have experienced both. My second examiner actually bothered to find out that I was having a mild panic attack every time I came in and that I also might be overthinking the questions as a result. She adjusted her baseline because her initial test questions indicated that I might have been lying when I answered questions regarding my name, age and whether or not it was Monday and I sitting in a chair. 😮

Is there a specific organization that the state of Colorado uses to conduct these polygraph tests. If so can you please share the name or names of these organizations or companies..

The polygraph / lie detector is junk science. The polygraph’s premise assumes that spikes in breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, or sweat indicate deception. Logically, if the polygraph’s premise were true, then it would also mean you were lying anytime you’ve had spikes in breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, or sweat. How absurd!

If you have yet to watch, here is a YouTube clip from truTV’s Adam Ruins Everything:

It’s almost as if everything related to “sex offender” registration — including registration itself — is a scam.

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