Montgomery County probation may test sex offenders with polygraphs

Montgomery County’s probation department is hoping to add polygraph exams to its arsenal of tools us

Montgomery County’s probation department is hoping to add polygraph exams to its arsenal of tools used to monitor the behavior of registered sex offenders.

A resolution to accept $2,700 from the state Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives will be on the table for consideration tonight during a meeting of the county Board of Supervisors’ public safety committee.

County Probation Director Lucille Sitterly said several county probation departments already make use of polygraph tests which, despite being inadmissible in court, can provide important information for law enforcement.

“We monitor their computer usage, make home visits, we do employment checks and those kinds of things, but it’s very easy for them, since we’re not watching them 24–7, to fabricate [stories] at times,” Sitterly said Monday.

Also known as a lie detector, a polygraph machine measures changes in blood pressure, respiration, pulse rate and other indicators as a person is questioned.

There are 118 registered sex offenders in Montgomery County, 27 of whom are ranked at Level 3, the highest potential for repeat offense, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Another 34 are ranked Level 2, or a moderate risk of repeat offense. Some 54 are Level 1 offenders, with a low risk of repeat offenses, and three are not rated yet, according to DCJS.

Sitterly said many of the county’s sex offenders are managed by the state Division of Parole, and a handful are under the management of the county’s Probation Department. Although the results of polygraph exams are not admissible as evidence in courts, Sitterly said the machines could help the department focus its attention on the right offenders.

“It’s done at intervals, maybe six months, just to determine [if they’re lying] when we ask them a question about where they’ve been, who they’ve been with,” Sitterly said. “It’s a supervision tool to determine if they require more supervision.”

The state has been providing grant funding for county probation departments to have polygraph exams for at least two years, said Linda Valenti, a spokeswoman at the state Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives.

If approved, the lie detector tests will join other tools the county probation department uses to monitor offenders.

The department in 2008 began contracting with a company to monitor computer usage of sex offenders to make sure they are not visiting sites they are not allowed to, and that effort has been successful, Sitterly said.

“People are accessing sites on their computers that they should not be accessing,” Sitterly said. In the case of the computer use, that information can be used in court, Sitterly said, because of records and usage logs available through the service.

Categories: Schenectady County

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