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Standard E 2080 Provides Guidance for Polygraph Monitoring of Sex Offenders

Hidden ongoing activity by sex offenders has been hard to document, especially when the victims are children. In a tragic case, an investigation of a foster father which included polygraph testing revealed that he abused nearly all 75 “special needs” children in his care. Polygraph tests have become pivotal in exposing this behavior, and ASTM Committee E52 on Psychophysiological Detection of Deception (PDD) has developed uniform, credible polygraph standards since 1996.

A task group of PDD Subcommittee E52.04 has completed a guide detailing standardized methods for administering polygraph tests to sex offenders, ASTM E 2080, Standard Guide for Clinical Psychophysiological Detection of Deception (PDD) Examinations for Sex Offenders.

The guide applies to court-ordered clinical PDD monitoring of offenders living in the community. It focuses on detection methods that reveal hidden crimes. “Few therapists in the country believe they can successfully treat anyone who is purposely holding back information about his or her past sexual behavior,” said George Baranowski, director of Mindsight Consultants, Michigan City, Ind., and ASTM subcommittee chair. “Denial on the part of the offender who enters treatment is one of the most demanding problems faced by therapists. The use of clinical PDD testing in this setting helps ensure offenders fully reveal his or her sexual history, which is essential to the development of effective treatment programs.”

“Sex offender treatment,” said Baranowski, who worked in criminal justice for 25 years and developed monitoring programs for sex offenders since 1991, “puts focus on the offender recognizing and managing deviant sexual behavior along with the accompanying thoughts or attitudes that promote such behavior. An important element in the treatment of sex offenders is the ability of the therapist to obtain full disclosures of the offender’s sexual history. The treatment provider must obtain as much information about the individual’s activities as they can. It is only then that treatment can be maximized.”

Guidance in Standard E 2080 was compiled by 42 individuals with expertise in polygraphy and other criminal justice disciplines, and psychotherapy. “One significant benefit of this new ASTM guide is that courts, their supervising officers, treatment providers, and national treatment associations, can be assured the individual providing such clinical PDD examinations for sex offenders under supervision and in treatment, are being conducted in accordance with nationally recognized and accepted standards,” Baranowski offered.

Convictions also result from hidden information revealed in polygraph testing. Baranowski described clinical polygraph monitoring of a 31-year old truck driver convicted in 1996 of sexual molestation of a family member that went undetected for several years. His sentence of prison confinement was suspended at the request of his wife, and he was placed under court supervision that included clinical PDD testing. Despite his efforts to conceal continuing deviant behavior over the next two years of treatment, polygraph monitoring in 1998 initiated further investigations that produced victims’ testimonies. “Four Class A felony charges and six Class C felony charges of child molesting were filed against [him] and he was arrested,” Baranowski said. “The matter lingered in the courts for almost two years, as he maintained he was innocent. Finally, a two-day trial was held. It took the jury just four hours of deliberation to find [him] guilty of 10 counts of child molesting.

“The guide is crafted in ways to assure clinical PDD test results are accurate,” he averred.

Standardized methods of PDD testing for sex offenders on probation or parole requires specialized training, and unique skills and attitudes, according to Baranowski: “Many examiners are not aware of the special needs required. Recognizing the significance of such testing, Committee E52 on Forensic Psychophysiological Detection of Deception developed a task group and thus the development of Standard Guide E 2080.

“ASTM presents the premise of a ‘national’ standard guide, recognized by the courts and professional treatment associations, that are applicable to all PDD examiners regardless of their membership or non-membership in any professional trade association,” Baranowski concluded.

For further technical information, contact George Baranowski, Mindsight Consultants, Michigan City, Ind. (phone: 219/873-9134). Committee E52 meets March 28-30 in Phoenix, Ariz., and Jul. 13-15 in Indianapolis, Ind., in conjunction with the American Polygraph Association. Contact E52 Staff Manager Gloria E. Collins (phone: 610/832-9715). //

Copyright 2001, ASTM