High-priced ‘junk science’ in Colorado:   A Denver Post investigative reporter, Christopher Osher, has a  very interesting and detailed report about Colorado’s “aggressive” use of polygraph tests on persons convicted of sex offenses.  Considered unreliable *junk science,* the results nonetheless help determine the fate of those subjected to the tests.  Colorado is not alone;  an estimated 70% of states are using polygraphs in sex offense cases.   Why are these dubious and expensive  ‘lie detectors’ so irresistible to officials?   A separate story delves into the state’s decision-making process and follows the money!   Kudos to Christopher Osher and editors at the Denver Post for this in-depth coverage.   –Bill Dobbs, The Dobbs Wire

 

 

Denver Post | May 14, 2017

Colorado’s pricey polygraph testing of sex offenders under fire as critics target accuracy, expense

Psychologist calls state’s $5 million polygraph program “grossly excessive” as state legislature examines cost

 

 

By CHRISTOPHER N. OSHER

 

Excerpts:  Colorado has spent more than $5 million to administer polygraphs on convicted sex offenders over the last seven years despite concerns that the tests are so unreliable they can’t be used as evidence during civil or criminal trials.   Critics contend an entrenched and profitable cottage industry, rife with conflicts of interests, has grown up around polygraphing sex offenders in Colorado.

 

Polygraphs help officials decide which prisoners convicted of sex offenses are suited for release from prison by probing their sexual history, attitudes about their crimes and whether they are committing new offenses. They also guide how offenders on parole or probation are supervised.  Studies show that up to 70 percent of U.S. states polygraph sex offenders, but experts have testified that Colorado uses the tests aggressively, even polygraphing juvenile offenders for consensual sexting.

 

“To me, there is no question that it borders on a scam,” said Senate President pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “We incentivize the people who give the polygraph tests to have inconclusive results so an offender has to go back and pay for another one on a more regular basis.”

 

“The polygraph really gives useful information,” said Lenny Woodson, administrator for the Colorado Department of Corrections’ Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program.

 

But a bipartisan cross-section of legislators and a retired judge have joined with offenders and their families to question the validity of the tests. They contend too much weight is placed on what they argue is little more than junk science.

 

In addition to the legislators, C. Dennis Maes, former chief judge of Pueblo District Court, has criticized the use of polygraphs in Colorado.  “The Constitution was designed to protect those that might be the most easily attacked by the government, even sex offenders. You don’t see polygraphs in any other area of the law. You can be the most prolific bad-check writer ever and you don’t have to take them, but you do if you’re a sex offender.”  MORE:

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/14/colorado-does-not-require-polygraph-testing-of-most-parolees-but-sex-offenders-get-different-treatment/

 

 

Denver Post | May 14, 2017

Professional polygrapher holds position of power on state’s sex-offender treatment board

Jeff Jenks’ firm will receive $1.9 million to test sex offenders in Colorado prisons as he sits on the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board

 

By CHRISTOPHER N. OSHER

 

A professional polygrapher has an influential role in rewriting the rules in Colorado for how often their profession conducts lie-detector testing on sex offenders, an arrangement that critics have called a conflict of interest.

 

Colorado will pay Jeff Jenks’ Wheat Ridge polygraph firm, Amich & Jenks Inc., up to $1.9 million to polygraph sex offenders in prison from 2010 to 2020, according to state contracts.  Jenks is a member of the Colorado Sex Offender Management Board, a 25-member group that writes the rules on how sex offenders are managed. He has defended the use of polygraphs and also voted on polygraph issues the full board decided.

 

Laurie Kepros, director of sexual litigation for the state public defender, said she has unsuccessfully tried to get the committee to review research showing polygraphs do little to keep individuals convicted of sex crimes from reoffending.  “The studies that do exist show no statistical reduction in sexual recidivism,” Kepros said. If it’s so important that we spend so much money on polygraphs, why don’t we have any data supporting it?”

 

“To ask polygraphers to decide and vote and have power over how much polygraphy is appropriate in a particular area is perhaps a fool’s errand because they aren’t going to have a very impartial view,” said Sen. Daniel Kagan, D-Denver, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, during a recent legislative hearing. “Yet, we are allowing polygraphers to play a large role in deciding how much polygraphy is appropriate in sex-offender treatment.”   MORE:

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/05/14/polygrapher-conflict-of-interest/

 

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