By David S. Prescott, LICSW, Kieran McCartan, Ph.D., &Alissa Ackerman, Ph.D.
Nothing divides the professional and academic community that works in the field of sexual abuse quite like the polygraph. It is a debate that has went on internationally for decades. A fascinating wrinkle in policy and the law recently came to the authors’ attention. In at least one state, there is a policy holding that people on probation cannot be sent back to prison for failing a polygraph examination. This makes sense given the current status of the research around the polygraph and its admissibility in court. However, in this state, the same people can be sent back to prison if the examiner believes they have deliberately manipulated the results of the test. This has resulted in at least one examiner expressing certainty that many of his examinees have tried to influence the results, with many of them becoming incarcerated as a result of the examiner’s belief. While highlights the main issue that the polygraph faces, there are a multitude of different audiences (public, judiciary, professionals, academics, etc) all with different attitudes, experiences, evidence bases and strongly held views.