Sexual offender containment: use of the postconviction polygraph

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Jun;989:411-27; discussion 441-5.


Victims of sexual assault are unlikely to report the crime. For many sexual offenders, then, their sexually deviant behavior remains largely unknown except for crimes that result in arrest or notification to social services. Little is known about the offender's past behavior and little will be known about the offender's future abusive behavior. It is within this context that the containment approach for managing sexual offenders becomes critical to protecting future victimization by known offenders. This paper describes the need to incorporate information learned from the postconviction polygraph examination into intense treatment and criminal justice supervision. Age of onset and frequency and variety of deviant behavior are known risk factors, probably because they reflect the extent to which deviancy is part of the offender's lifestyle. Treatment and supervision plans must incorporate this information, along with the risk presented by these offenders to very specific age and gender groups. This study of data collected on disclosures made by 180 convicted sexual offenders (most were convicted of crimes against children) during the course of four different treatment/polygraph programs found that 39% had a history of sexually assaulting adults, 31% had sexually assaulted both male and female victims, 36% had engaged in bestiality, and two-thirds of the incest offenders had assaulted victims outside the family. Complete information is necessary for treatment providers and supervising officers to develop meaningful and relevant treatment and supervision plans, and for imminent, situational risk factors to be managed and contained.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Crime Victims
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prisons
  • Punishment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Offenses / classification*
  • Sex Offenses / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Sex Offenses / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors
  • Truth Disclosure*
  • United States