One of the most frightening and egregious and widely underreported crimes is sexual abuse. This is because it has a strong personal impact on the victims causing them to be reluctant in reporting to law enforcement agencies. In the early 90s, there are numerous legislation mandating for the tracking, monitoring, apprehension, and punishment of sexual offenders. An example of that is the Jacob Wetterling Act which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1994 stipulating that it is required for sex offenders to register their whereabouts with law enforcement agencies. Then in 1996, the Megan's Law allowed public disclosure of registry information, and the following amendments to the earlier legislation required posting of information on convicted sex offenders on the Internet. Ten years later, the Adam Walsh Act (AWA) was signed into law by former President George W. Bush and required states to standardize their registration and community notification practices by categorizing sex offenders into three-tier levels to increase public safety. Moreover, duration of registration was expanded and penalties for sex offenders who failed to register were increased. If states do not comply with these federal guidelines they would lose funding from the federal government. Even with these initiatives in place, the general public still fears for their safety especially when these sex offenders are re-integrated into the community particularly during their first years of post-release.
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Blackstone (2008) estimated there are currently 250,000 sex offenders who are under community supervision. This population is expected to swell and some sex offenders re-offend posing a security and safety threat on the community. In recent years, sex offender management and treatment has seen much improvement that more and more sex offenders have been successfully re-integrated into society. Through the years, literature on the utilization of polygraph for post-conviction purposes has steadily accumulated and has been proposed in treating and supervising sex offenders (Grubin et al. 2004). Supporters argued that it will provide clinicians a more reliable and accurate assessment on sexual histories, offense descriptions, identification on likelihood of high-risk behaviors, and enable intervention to prevent recidivism. In a majority of US states, sex offenders are routinely polygraphed through a post-conviction sex offender testing (PCSOT) as a condition of probation or parole and in England, similar measures are being proposed. Though investigations in post-conviction settings have been supportive, attention was given to its utility rather than accuracy. If polygraph testing is inaccurate, then its usage will be compromised because the examiner would come to the conclusion that the polygraph does not work.
Post-conviction polygraph testing of sex offenders present numerous advantages like more comprehensive histories of deviant sexual behavior, divulgence of offenses not previously admitted, and increased disclosure of high-risk behaviors (Grubin et al. 2004; Madsen et al. 2004). Supporters argued that increased disclosure by sex offenders allows for the identification of improved treatment interventions by helping them overcome denial and assist them in increasing their compliance in relapse prevention plans (Grubin et al. 2004). Grubin and Madsen (2006) also indicated that polygraphy has a therapeutic role as well as its obvious function of "detecting lies". When testimonies of the sex offender passed the polygraph test, it is a confirmation and indication that the individual had been honest during treatment and supervision and in critical contexts, it is an essential element to be successfully treated.
Although this emphasis on utility is understandable, questions are raised regarding its accuracy. If the sex offenders examined do not believe that the test does not work, their disclosure of relevant information is limited at best. In addition, it is important to have knowledge of accuracy rates to shed light on the possibility of apparent deception in the absence of disclosure. If this procedure is to be viable clinically, both examiners and sex offenders should have confidence in the validity of its results.
However, literature revealed conflicting data on polygraph accuracy as there were criticisms regarding its methodological weaknesses (Cross & Saxe, 2001). Opponents of the polygraph mentioned a number of factors that contribute to inconsistencies and bias in the results: body mannerisms, amount of examiner experience in testing special populations, quality of examiner training, and various types of therapist/examiner partnerships. To some extent, however, all research is biased by these variables if not sufficiently controlled" (Ahlmeyer et al. 2000). In 2002, an expert panel commissioned by the US National Academy of Sciences estimated the accuracy of polygraph test range from 81% to 91%. However, those reviewed were not for post-conviction or therapeutic purposes. Kokish et al. (2005) investigated the accuracy of the procedure in a post-conviction setting among 95 sex offenders in an outpatient treatment facility in California. Eighteen of them claimed to be wrongly accused of deception according to 22 tests, and six claimed to be wrongly labeled as non-deceptive based on 11 tests, which meant an overall accurate rate of 90%. On the contrary, computation of specificity, sensitivity or predictive values cannot be calculated. Grubin et al, (2006) replicated the methodology of Kokish et al (2005) and noted an accuracy rate of 85% in truthfulness and 84% in deception. Although this approach is dependent on uncorroborated self-report of examinees without any means testing against actual test outcomes, the reported accuracy rates are consistent with the National Academy of Sciences. Examinees themselves perceived the polygraph testing to be moderately to extremely accurate.
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The purpose of the correlation study is to examine whether relationships exist among the following variables: a) full disclosure of sexual history as measured by sexual history polygraph test results; b) the swiftness at which sex offender clients disclose sufficient sexual history detail to achieve non-deceptive results; c) sex offender treatment completion status and d) sex offense recidivism. Further, the study will determine whether there is a predictive correlation relationship among the variables a, b and c and the outcome and / or criterion variable of recidivism. The results of the study will inform practitioners on whether their efforts to assist sex offender clients with swiftly achieving full disclosure via sexual history polygraph testing relate to positive outcomes such as treatment completion and recidivism reduction. If strong correlation relationships among polygraph-motivated behavioral history disclosures, treatment outcome and recidivism are discovered, then the research may further the application of behavioral history polygraph testing in other fields such as substance abuse and domestic violence intervention. The ultimate goal of the polygraph test is to provide baseline information that will be used in treating sex offenders transforming them into law abiding citizens in the community and not posing a significant threat to society.
Background of the Problem
Unquestionably, sexually-related crimes are social maladies deserving legal and public attention and states are to protect their citizens from repeat sex predators. The overwhelming challenge is to find strategies that most likely prevent sex predators from re-offending. This commission of a new offense by a previously arrested, convicted or incarcerated offender is referred to as recidivism. Recidivism rates have not been consistent; some reported 50% while others recorded very low levels of re-offending from 0% to 11% (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, 2001). This wide pattern of variation in recidivism rates had researchers, practitioners, and general public alarmed. One of these approaches which the study will explore is post conviction polygraph testing.
The post conviction sex offender testing differs significantly from the pre-conviction testing. Primarily and historically, the pre-conviction polygraph testing is for investigating wrongdoing and screening or testing employees. On the other hand, the post conviction sex offender testing has a wide spectrum of applications; some are similar to pre-conviction testing while others are strikingly different. When considering sex offenders as a group, they a high risk group because of their psychological disorders and knowledge of polygraphy which may compromise the outcome of the examination process. According to Gordon and Grubin (2004), sex offenders likely abuse drugs and exhibit abnormal personality traits, personality disorders, learning disability or dysphoric mood. Thornton (2002) also listed a number of psychological factors that are associated with re-offending which include sexual interests, distorted attitudes and beliefs, socio-affective management, and self-management for example poor problem solving skills and impulsiveness of lifestyle.
The purpose of a post-conviction sex offender polygraph test or the Sexual History Disclosure Examination is to explore and extract information from the sex offender their involvement in sexual behavior prior to the date of conviction. Information on their sexual history is important in order to treatment and assessment of risk factors. It is provided by law that sex offenders are immuned from prosecution for any offenses admitted during the Sexual History Disclosure Examination may be needed to warrant full participation from the offender. Unfortunately during the conduct of these examinations some clinicians opted to limit to undisclosed victims rather than delving into the entire sexual history (Wygant, 1996; Lundell, 1996). This is because some of the questions asked during the examination pertain to the individual's overall behavior. Another challenge in the conduct of this examination is the possibility that the offender might withhold information about his or her sexual history therefore deceptive polygraph outcomes are likely to result. The process starts with a pretest interview, during which time the sex offender is given an opportunity to disclose any information that has not been revealed to the therapist or the group. Very often there are new disclosures. The offender then completes a form providing details on their offenses not only against the victim/s of the sexual crime to which they were convicted but rather all the victims they sexually abused. Both examiner and offender together create the examination questions and when deception is detected, the former confronts the latter with the problem leading to further disclosures. Afterwards, the therapist is advised through a written report which will include relevant questions and all information divulged during the pre and post test interviews along with the examiner's conclusions about truthfulness or deception. If results would suggest a significant community or treatment concern, the therapist is consulted immediately.
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Utility of polygraphy overcomes the weakness of traditional interviewing methods because of ability to collect sufficient information from offenders is greater (ATSA, 1997). It was shown to increase disclosures by offenders. English et al. (2000) compared 180 offenders before and after polygraph testing. They noted an 80 % increase in admission of male victims; 190%, both male and female victims; 230%, both juvenile and adult victims; 60%, high-risk behaviors; 196%, more than one high risk behavior. Hindman and Peters in their study compared the disclosures of intra-familial sex offenders who have undergone post-conviction sexual offender polygraph testing with the control group or non-recipients. When the non-polygraph subjects entered treatment, they reported 1.2 victims on the average which then increased to 1.5 when they completed their sexual histories. In contrast, at program entry, the number of victims averaged 1.3 then increased to 9. Among the control group, 67% admitted being abused sexually as a child, and 21% disclosed sexually abusing others when they were minors. On the other hand, 29% of the polygraph group admitted being abused sexually as minors and 71% started sexually abusing others when they were minors. The same authors replicated the study in 2000 based on the 198801994 data. They revealed that the non-polygraph group averaged 2.5 victims with 65% claiming being abused as minors and 22% had sexually abused others. The polygraph subjects admitted 13.6 victims on the average, and 32% and 68% claimed being victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse as minors, respectively.
Treatment of adult sex offenders has become a much discussed subject matter in criminology and psychological literature. To assess outcome of treatment, sexual and non-sexual re-offense is used as a parameter (Sager, & Witt, 2003).Â Â Hanson et al. (2002) performed a meta-analysis of criminal recidivism; others determined the factors that significantly influence treatment success and failure like Maletzky, Simkins, Ward, Bowman, Rinck, and Dwyer and Rosser studied recidivism in outpatient programs. Research of Hanson and Harris (2001) and Hanson and Morton-Bourgon (2005) revealed dynamic factors associated with re-offense and treatment adjustment and targets of interventions. The impact of treatment was determined both during (McGrath,Â Livingston & Cumming, 2002) and end of treatment utilizing objective change measures (Beech & Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2005).Â Various results were obtained from these researches which could be attributed to the tool for assessing change, treatment approach, type of offense, and length of time at risk.
In the treatment of sex offenders, the community is the primary client and the ultimate goal is the absence of victimization and sexual recidivism. This signifies that protection of the community is at the forefront over any other considerations. Sex offender treatment differ from traditional psychotherapy because its approach is confrontational, structured, victim-centered where values and limits are imposed by the treatment provider and leaves no room for neutrality. When treatment procedure is performed neutrally, there is increased likelihood that the provider will contribute or add to the offender's denial. Due to the enormity of its impact on public safety, confidentially is not maintained. The motivation behind commission of their sexual offenses is secrecy; thus, there is no guarantee of confidentiality. Self-reports of sex offenders should not be solely relied upon as these criminals perceive trust as something that is abusable. To maintain the necessary checks and balances, polygraphs will be utilized for vertification purposes. Treatment modality is dependent on the type of offense which focuses on deviant behavior, and requires the offender to take responsibility for their behaviors on the victims and the community. In addition, the approach is seemingly unfamiliar to mental health professionals since the therapist has a considerable control over the offender due to the concern for protecting and safeguarding the community. Because of this, only a Registered or Affiliate Sex Offender Treatment Provider is commissioned to conduct the assessment and offer the appropriate mitigating measure for sex offenders. Though the safety of the community takes precedence in the management of sex offenders, provision of the most effective treatment is dictated by the characteristics of the clients (English, 1996). Kokish (2002) explained that community agents refer offenders because of the community's perception that the offenders' deviant behavior is a source of distress in society. The role of these community agents is to ensure that sex offenders remain fully compliant and active participating during therapy regardless of their desires and their dislike in some aspects of the treatment. This is quite the opposite with traditional therapy where clients have the discretion to discontinue their treatment because the objective of sex offender treatment programs is to modify the offenders' behavior outside the confines of the therapy room. Altogether, this will lead to reduction of sex offender recidivism.
Assessment of recidivism has been an issue for criminal behavior researchers particularly among sex offenders. First, sound methodologies that evaluate the correlation between treatment and recidivism is limited. Since earlier studies do not employ an experimental approach, they failed to demonstrate positive correlation between effective sex offender treatment and reduced recidivism. Second, sex offenders in prison and in the community are not given specialized treatments designed to reduce recidivism. Finally, recidivism rates are misleading since not all sex offenders are apprehended, and if caught, the crime is not sexual in nature (Groth, Longo, & McFadin 1982). It is commonly perceived that sex offenders tend to re-commit sexual crimes. However, this perception is contradictory to research results. Research has proven that recidivism among sex offenders is generally low compared to other offenders. Hanson and Morton-Burgon (2004) reviewed 61 recidivism research studies and showed that only 13.4% of the 24,000 sex offenders commit a new sex offense. Furthermore, sex offenders do recidivate but the crimes the commit are non sexual. Recidivism patterns also varied depending on the type of sex offense of conviction. Rapists do recidivate shortly after their release than other sex offenders. Extra familial male child molesters on the other hand commit a new sex offense longer than rapists, but only very minimal recidivism rate. Recidivism among incest offenders was extremely low because propensity to recidivate is very unlikely. Risk factors of sex offender recidivism included deviant sexual practices, early onset of sex offending, history of prior sex offenses, and committing diverse sexual crimes, such as both rape and child molesting.
Statement of the Problem
According to Freeman-Longo and Blanchard (1998), "The key to preventing sexual abuse is to shift paradigms. In addition to viewing sexual abuse as a criminal justice issue, we must also view it as a serious public health problem and preventable social problem." Because sexual violence is a serious and complex crime it necessitates effective and comprehensive strategies to protect the general public and the community. Interventions in the management of sex offenders re-integrated in society are research-based and have a higher success of achieving the desired outcomes which entail a radical change in their psychological and mental status enabling them to be compliant to treatment programs and commit no more sexual crimes and the like. The study will use secondary data from the Texas prison system. This study will endeavor to correlate performance of sex offenders in the Sexual History Disclosure Examination with treatment and sex offender recidivism. Therefore it will test the null hypothesis that disclosure of sex offenders is not significantly associated with completion of sex offender treatment and sex offender recidivism.
Purpose of the Study
There is no other crime that induces public reaction as sexual crimes. Most sexual crimes involve male offenders against women and children. The susceptibility of the victim increases perceptions of the community towards the danger posed by the perpetrators and the popular anger for them (Quinn, 2003). The impact that sexual offenses have on victims is not only physical but also result in psychological and emotional distress which is sustained for years and some of these victims suffer in silence. Therefore, when sex offenders subsequently return to the community it is a serious concern because of the looming fear that they might re-commit the crime they were previously convicted for (Bynum, 2001) or worse murder their victims (Terry, 2003). In the 80s and early 90s, the sexual crimes of Jacob Wetterling, Polly Klaas, and Megan Kanka became the catalysts for most legislation pertaining sex offenders. It is thus not surprising that there are special provisions for individuals who committed these heinous crimes.
Through the years, the frequency of sex offenders has increased. This has prompted law enforcement agencies to be more aggressive in their campaign to prosecute these criminals and further expanded the definition of sexual offenses that conduct previously tolerated is now s crime (Lane, 2003). Since this research is a scientific initiative to protect the security of the public, the study will determine the association of sexual history disclosure factors, completion of treatment plan, and sex offender recidivism based on a secondary data obtained from the Texas prison system.
The purpose of the US justice system is not only the prosecution of the criminal offenders but also their rehabilitation. The prison system offers a conducive environment where sex offenders receive counseling and therapy when they will be released into the public and become re-integrated in the community. The goal of rehabilitation is to encourage sex offender to complete treatment plan and discourage sex offender recidivism. The study will determine the correlation among full disclosure of sexual history, swiftness at which the sex offender disclosed sufficient sexual history to achieve non-deceptive results, sex offender treatment completion status, and sex offense recidivism.
Specifically, the study will address the following questions:
What are the polygraph-motivated disclosure behaviors among the sample of sex offenders from the Texas prison system in terms of:
level of disclosure of sexual history
swiftness of sex offenders in disclosing sufficient sexual history detail to achieve non-deceptive results
What is the completion status of the sex offenders to the treatment plans they have undergone?
What is the level of sex offender recidivism among the samples?
Is there a significant correlation among the polygraph-motivated behaviors, treatment plan completion, and sex offender recidivism?
Rationale, Relevance, and Significance of the Study
The results of the study will support victim advocacy. Aside from the fact that the state provides services to sexual abuse survivors and responding to concerns that may arise when sex offenders are re-integrated into the community, victim advocates ensure that the interest of victims both present and future remain at the forefront of sex offender management strategies. Because these advocates have worked closely with the victims, it is understandable that they have a unique perspective on the impact that sexual abuse has on the victims. They are capable of establishing relationships with the victims, serve as resource persons for victims when they participate in the criminal justice system, and as support groups for victims after the perpetrators are released from prison and subject to community supervision. This will prompt the victim advocates to work in coordination with supervision agencies in enhancing sex offender management policy with the safety needs of victims in mind, developing and providing professional training to create awareness on the effects of victimization to criminal justice system and other actors, and informing daily supervision practices especially those measures that may be detrimental to victims, assisting and supporting supervision agents with community notification and education efforts.
Due to the complexity and variation of sexual violence and the perpetrators of the crime, this study will provide a research-based assessment of sex offenders and their behaviors particularly towards the treatment plans they will receive and their propensity to re-commit sexual offenses. Based on the outcome of this study, it is possible to deduce the risk that the offenders pose to their victims and the community. This will enable authorities to respond appropriately. Assessment of sex offenders can be viewed as a process involving two inter-dependent domains: risk and clinical domains. The purpose of the risk assessment is to predict and manage risk brought about by the presence of sex offenders in the community. Risk prediction involves forecasting the probability of recidivism of sex offenders over a period of years. On the other hand, risk management which is undertaken by probation/parole officers, treatment providers, police officers, victim advocates and many others entails the recognition and responding to on-going and short term variations on sex offender risk. The underlying premise of this process is the uniqueness of every offender. Clinical assessment domain has a two-fold purpose: clinical diagnosis and clinical treatment. In clinical diagnosis, sex offenders are assessed on the presence of severe psychological or psychiatric problems. Results of the diagnosis affect criminal justice process which include competency, mental status, criminal responsibility and in turn treatment outcomes. In clinical treatment, specific treatment needs are determined so that an effective and comprehensive treatment plan will be implemented.
Definition of Terms
The following terms should be provided operational definitions for a better understanding of the study:
Polygraph-motivated behaviors. This variable refers to the level of disclosure of sexual history and the swiftness of sex offenders in disclosing sufficient sexual history detail to achieve non-deceptive results.
Completion of treatment. This variable refers to the status of compliance of the sex offenders on the treatment programs they were subjected to.
Sex offender recidivism. This variable refers to the act of re-committing the sexual offense of conviction or a new sexual crime.
Sex offender. This term refers to the individual who committed a sex offense against children or adults of both genders in the community.
Rape. This term refers to the type of sex offense in which the perpetrator forces the victim to submit to sexual acts particularly sexual intercourse.
Incest. This term refers to the type of sex offense involving the sexual contact with a blood relative who could be a grandparent, grandchild, parent, or child.
Child molestation. This term refers to the type of sex offense where the perpetrator touches the body part/s of a minor to satisfy malicious and lewd intents. It will be divided into boy and girl victim child molestation.
Victim. This term refers to an individual who was sexually abused without their knowledge or consent. For minors, definition of victim necessitates a four-year age difference between the victim and offender, force exerted in committing the offense, or offender is an adult and the victim has not reached age of consent stipulated in their state. .
For this study, it will be assumed that the population of sex offenders will be normally distributed and that type of sexual violence will be adequately represented in the samples. Since a random sampling method will be conducted, the conclusion could be generalized to reflect the overall view of the sex offenders in Texas. However, the outcome of this proposed study could not extrapolate on other states in the country. Another assumption is that there will be variations in the respondents' honesty during treatment and compliance with treatment procedures and supervision conditions. The last assumption is that there will be sex offenders who will re-commit sexual crimes. This is in line with the assumption of sex offender laws that these criminals cannot be rehabilitated. These rehabilitative measures are not the panacea to all the problems confronting sex offenders and the community just like there is no existing cure for AIDS, diabetes or schizophrenia. Despite this, there is sufficient evidence suggesting that sex offenders can benefit from these interventions by changing their ways of thinking and control their impulses.
The proposed study will address the question on the correlation of polygraph-motivated disclosure behaviors, completion of treatment and sex offender recidivism using a large sample drawn randomly from prisons in Texas from 1998-2008. The polygraph-motivated disclosure behaviors will be limited to the level of disclosure during the Sexual History Disclosure Examination and swiftness of sex offenders in disclosing sexual history without deception. The study will focus on the following subgroups of sex offenders: rapists, girl and boy victim child molesters, incest offenders, those with or without a prior sexual offense, older offenders or those 50 and above upon release, and younger offenders. These respondents must have been able to participate in treatment programs offered by the state prison system. Recidivism rates will be computed after five, 10, 15, and 20 years of follow-up. Only sexual recidivism will be considered. Another limitation is the inadequacies of the data. Since data used will come from official records, they underrepresent frequency of sex offending in the community as mentioned by Belknap (2000) and La Fond (2005). For example, victims of rape whose perpetrators are close relatives less likely report the incident to law enforcement agencies than those who are victimized by strangers (Belknap, 2000). There also is a limitation to the generalizability of results as sex offenders will be expected to differ in offense histories and length and time of treatment. Â Â
Nature of Study
This longitudinal study will examine the presence of significant correlation among polygraph-motivated disclosure behaviors, treatment completion status, and sex offender recidivism. The respondents will come from different subgroups of sex offenders who have undergone treatment plans as being released in the community during the period from 1998 to 2008. Each of the subjects will be followed until December 2008. This time frame will provide sufficient basis to address both the immediate and long-term risk of sex offender release into the community. The type of recidivism that the research will look at is sexual recidivism which may not be consistent to the sexual crime of conviction. Information needed for statistical analysis will be drawn from the database of the Texas prison system.
Organization of the Remainder of the Study
The succeeding pages will present the literature review composed of seven parts namely: introduction to the literature review, theoretical framework, crucial theoretical/conceptual debates, bridging theoretical gaps and resolving controversy, review of the critical literature, evaluation of viable research designs, and summary. This will be followed by Chapter 3 entitled Methodology which is divided into purpose of the study, research philosophy, research design guide, research design strategy, sampling design and setting, measures, procedures, validity, reliability, independent and dependent variables, statistical analysis plan, ethical issues, and summary. Chapter 4 is Data Collection and Analysis which will present the findings and the summary of findings. The next chapter bearing the title, Results, Conclusion, and Recommendations will highlight the limitations of the study, summary of the findings, discussion, recommendations for practice, and recommendations for future research.