Colorado Springs

Polygraph exams: How effective are they with sex offenders

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A new report reveals Colorado has spent millions over the last seven years, administering polygraphs on convicted sex offenders. Some argue it's a waste of money because often the tests won't even be used during trial.

"I've done more than 5,000 exams," said Stephen Daniels, a polygraph examiner in Colorado Springs.

His staff conducts lie detector tests on sex offenders that help decide if they are ready for release or probation.

"They are anywhere from 85 to 92 percent accurate. Keep in mind, nothing is 100 percent accurate," Daniels said.

A recent article released in the Denver Post has some calling polygraphs "Junk science" and "Unreliable." Daniels disagrees, saying these tests help prevent repeat offenders.

"I absolutely know that it can. I've had them come right to my face and tell me, 'that if I hadn't known I was coming for my polygraph, I would've gone after that child. I would have offended," he said.

President Pro Tem Jerry Sonnenberg calls the tests a scam, saying they "Purposely fail offenders so they can go back and pay more money."

Daniels disagrees and takes issue with the math used in the study

"Somebody has taken the numbers way out of line. The $5.2 million cost is probably for the whole treatment program where as the polygraph part of it is less than $250,000 a year that the state pays for," Daniels said.

According to city-data.com, there are 368 registered sex offenders living in Colorado Springs.

If you're wondering how the tests work:

"You put these on your fingers and they measure the electrodermal activity. Then we ask the question," Daniels said.

The green line on the screen reveals if you're lying.

"It's like a flight your brain says, oh my goodness your lying, and it goes up in the air, huge reaction," he said.

It's a red flag that could prompt investigators to look further into an offender's activities.

So why all the controversy? Well, when it comes to using those test results in criminal cases. Each judge gets to decide at their own discretion. And because they can't be 100 percent guaranteed, many judges don't use the results at all.
 


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