Polygraphs Increasingly Used to Find Parole Violations

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Polygraph use is increasing as a post-conviction tool.

Most jurisdictions use lie detector tests in an attempt to learn if sex offenders are violating their probation. Now some jurisdictions are also using polygraphs to test probationers convicted of domestic abuse and drunk driving, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Eric Holden, a psychologist and Dallas polygraph examiner, told the newspaper that he thinks polygraph tests “will become a standard for supervising probationers of all kinds.”

Because of doubts about reliability, most courts won’t allow polygraph tests to be introduced as evidence without the consent of the accused. Studies by the National Academy of Sciences found that the tests are wrong about 10 percent of the time, either falsely implicating truth-tellers or failing to detect liars.

But dozens of state and federal courts don’t have the same constitutional misgivings when the tests are used on probationers, the newspaper article says. The New York City-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 2006 ruling that such testing “produces an incentive to tell the truth, and thereby advances the sentencing goals.”

A dozen probationers who spoke to the Wall Street Journal said the tests had ferreted out their lies. Their comments are reinforced by a 2000 study of 180 sex offenders by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice for the National Institute of Justice. It found that 10 percent of test subjects admitted to having male victims before a polygraph test and 36 percent admitted it after a polygraph exam.

One of the believers is convicted pedophile Paul Duncan. He told the Wall Street Journal the test was able to determine he was nervous because he had violated his parole by viewing pornography online. “Don’t believe anyone who tells you polygraph doesn’t work,” he told the newspaper.

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