Lie Detector Tests for Sex Offenders

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(Audio Begins)

Leonard Sipes: Hi and welcome to D.C. Public Safety. I’m your host Len Sipes. Today’s guest is Matt Kiely. Matt is a supervisor with my agency, The Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. He deals with sex offenders and I think we’re gonna talk about a very interesting topic today. We’re going to talk about poligraphy; polygraph tests for sex offenders. Most people are not going to understand what a polygraph test is. It’s basically a lie detector test. We use lie detector tests for sex offenders to be sure, as one tool to increase our level of supervision and increase the level and truthfulness and, if I understand this correctly, to really help the offender confront his own reality and to help in terms of his own treatment process. And with that long introduction, Matt Kiley. Hi. How you doing?

Matt Kiely: Len, good morning. How you doing?

Leonard Sipes: I’m fine. Now, did I get it right Matt in terms of my description or did I mess it up.

Matt Kiely: Correct. It’s an investigative tool which we use in part of to design the treatment plan of the offenders. It’s not trying to catch the offender in a lie, but more so trying to obtain information to deal with his sex offender treatment plan and sex offender treatment contract.

Leonard Sipes: But a lot of sex offenders, and let me state this for the audience because they’re going to ask; why are you supervising them out in the community. These are individuals either coming out of the prison system, the federal prison system, and they’re now under mandatory supervision or their under parole and they are ours to supervise at the end of their sentence. So say the person has a 10 year sentence and he serves 70 percent of it. Well the three years left of his sentence, he is accountable to us. If he gets a term of probation, which means he is under our supervision but didn’t go to prison at least this time, he’s still under our supervision for whatever amount of years the judge gave him. So, we get a certain amount of sex offenders. How many sex offenders do we currently supervise? It’s within the hundreds right?

Matt Kiely: Right. Currently in my unit we have about 198 total, that includes active, monitored and some warrant cases. There’s two other units, so roughly about 400 I believe.

Leonard Sipes: Total.

Matt Kiely: Total sex offenders that we supervise. There’s well more than that on the registry which is a separate issue.

Leonard Sipes: Right and that’s the sex offender registry and here in the District of Columbia and that is indeed a separate issue. But we did that an entirely different show on that.

Matt Kiely: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: On the sex offender registry. We had the Metropolitan Police Department and our own people in to talk about the sex offender registry. So here we’re talking about the supervision and treatment of sex offenders. But sex offenders are in essence, a lot of them are pretty much in denial. Correct?

Matt Kiely: Correct. Some offenders have been denying the crime for years. I mean you’re talking about some offenders who have been locked up 15, 20 years come out and they reach a point where they actually believe that they did not commit the crime.

Leonard Sipes: Well and also at the same time whatever crime they committed was justified within their own mind in the context she was my girlfriend or this was a consensual relationship or this was in her best interest or I was just simply trying to be her friend. But the hard cold reality that this is obviously illegal act against generally speaking women, in a lot of cases minor children. You’ve got to sometimes pound it into their heads of “look buddy you committed a crime, in fact you’ve committed a series of crimes and if you continue committing those crimes, we’re gonna put you back in prison.” I mean that’s the hard cold reality in terms of getting through that denial. Correct?

Matt Kiely: Right. It’s a long process, certainly isn’t overnight. It’s similar to drug treatment, most treatment providers agree that treatment cannot be successful until the offender breaks his or her denial.

Leonard Sipes: And that becomes a good segway into a lot of different arenas because when people, when we talk about community supervision; I did a talk radio show years ago and somebody said the first time the person screws up, put him back in prison and my response was you’d have to put everybody back in prison because these aren’t boy scouts and girl scouts in many cases. Some come out with immense problems, mental health problems, substance abuse problems, domestic violence problems and in this case– sex offender problems. And in some cases, the process of relapse in terms of all of these issues, whether it be domestic violence, whether it be mental health, whether it be drug treatment or whether it be sex offender treatment is part of our day -to-day reality. Correct?

Matt Kiely: Correct. It’s almost inherent in the system there’s gonna be failures, but it’s what you do when they do fail kind of dictates where you go from there.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Now, if there’s sufficient failures, needless to say, if we catch a child sex offender stalking another child or engaged in the process of trying to entice that person, we’ll put the person back in prison. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. But there’s all sorts of other levels in between that we have to deal with and we cannot just send every person back to prison. The prisons would explode tomorrow. We would overload the prison instantaneously. Within a month we would overload the prison system. So we have to maintain these individuals in the community and protect public safety and at the same time to give him or her a opportunity to, whether it be a substance abusing offender, domestic violence, it doesn’t matter, mental health, we have to give them some opportunities to correct bad behavior.

Matt Kiely: Correct. And based on the levels of severity, we apply graduated sanctions. Like you said an offender alone with a minor who has an offense history against minors, who may be in violation of no contact with minors

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Matt Kiely: We have requested warrants; we have had warrants issued and quickly executed so we deal with the severity

Leonard Sipes: So public safety becomes first. I mean it’s our first objective needless to say. But, dealing with sex offenders, we are talking about a extraordinarily complex world because we started off the conversation that they make these endless rationalizations in their own minds in terms of their behavior and getting beyond those rationalizations and getting to the point where we know what he did in the past and we know how he is now, is an essential ingredient not only in terms of the supervision, but in terms of the treatment process.

Matt Kiely: Right. You need to confront the offender with that and we need to get to the point that we all agree that the offender takes responsibility for what he did. Not that he had sex with the 15, 16 year old, that he actually caused the harm in having sex with her because as you know, some offenders will cognitively distort their crimes, their violations indicate they cause no harm.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Matt Kiely: You know.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah. Understood. Now Matt, before you go into this whole issue poligraphy or polygraph tests or lie detector tests and we understand from the conversation that had at the beginning of the program is that they are not really lie detector tests, we have to explain that to the audience. How did you get involved, number one, in community supervision? Most people throughout the country that do this sort of job are called parole and probation agents. We call our folks community supervision officers. You’re a supervisory community supervision officer.

Matt Kiely: Right.

Leonard Sipes: You have a team of people who you supervise. But how did you get involved in this business?

Matt Kiely: I did my undergraduate work at a small school in western Maryland. Then right afterwards went into grad school up at University of Baltimore. I was lucky enough to catch this agency in its infancy in 98 as part of the first CSO class.

Leonard Sipes: Right. It’s a brand new agency and most people don’t understand that. we’re a brand new federal agency.

Matt Kiely: Right, so in 1998 was the first CSO class, was a CSO and general supervision for four years. Was promoted in 2002 initially was assigned to the diagnostic unit doing pre-sentence report on offenders, supervising a team over there and then I think it was in 2003 when they created a third, due to the numbers, a third sex offender unit that I took over the sex offender unit.

Leonard Sipes: By the way I graduated as well from the University of Baltimore as well.

Matt Kiely: Good school.

Leonard Sipes: It is a good school. It’s a wonderful school, wonderful experience, one of the best collegiate experiences I had. Okay, so you got involved in the sex offender unit why? Tough, tough, tough crazy unit to be in.

Matt Kiely: Right. Well I was asked. The Associate Director was creating a third unit, was asked if I was interest in leading that. I knew it would be an experience and something that I really wanted to eventually get into. I dealt with the general supervision offender, dealt with diagnostics and I wanted something more, somewhat of a tougher challenge, if you will.

Leonard Sipes: And it’s interesting because we have a high risk drug offender unit. We have the mental health unit. We have a sex offender unit. These are fairly small caseloads, generally speaking, and it’s always interesting that everybody wants to be in these units because they want the challenge and, my heavens, in terms of high risk drug offenders, people have had a long history of drugs and substance abuse and the mental health folks, the sex offender folks. People within the criminal justice system, throughout my years in the system, they just gravitate towards the hardest possible jobs. I’ve had wonderful conversations with police officers here in the District of Columbia as well as Baltimore City who patrol the highest crime neighborhoods because that’s where it’s really interesting.

Matt Kiely: Right.

Leonard Sipes: That’s where the challenge really is. And so you take on willingly this extraordinarily difficult group of offenders to supervise.

Matt Kiely: You deal with all types of offenders in the sex offender unit.

Leonard Sipes: Explain that, all types of offenders.

Matt Kiely: Well basically we want to cast a wide net in making sure that we’re supervising every type of sexual offender out there. So, for instance, if an offender has a previous rape conviction, does his jail time, gets off supervision and then 10 years down the road gets convicted of drug dealing, he gets assigned to our agency for supervision.

Leonard Sipes: Really.

Matt Kiely: That offender will be supervised by the sex offender unit.

Leonard Sipes: Interesting.

Matt Kiely: At that time, we want to have him assessed to see if he needs sex offender treatment. See if conditions are modified. So, we not only supervise those offenders who are currently on supervision for sex offense, but if they have a past

Leonard Sipes: If they have a sex offense in the past

Matt Kiely: In the past, we will also do that.

Leonard Sipes: When we’re talking about sex offenders, are we, and again I apologize for asking you this, I didn’t tell you before hand I would be asking you these sort of statistical questions. But in terms of what we call sex offenders, is our universe mostly of individuals who commit predatory attacks on adults or are we talking about principally people who are involved with children or those under the age of 18?

Matt Kiely: Probably say half and half.

Leonard Sipes: Half and half.

Matt Kiely: What’s more concerning once they get involved in treatment, you get those unreported crimes that no one ever knew about. He’s before us for rape of an adult, but you find out that he had three or four instances where he has had sexual contact with a minor.

Leonard Sipes: Right and that’s the controversy involved in all of this because you know, years ago when I left the Maryland State Police and went to college, one of the things that we were taught is that it’s all interconnected in one way, shape or form. I don’t know what the state of the art is now, but even pedophiles, the people who are just, I’m sorry not pedophiles, what am I talking about? The people who look in windows, the peeping toms.

Matt Kiely: Peeping toms, right.

Leonard Sipes: And the people who are exhibitionists, to expose themselves to other people. You take a look at a rapist and you take a look at a child sex offender and once you get into their psyches, you find an array of behavior that touches, in many cases, all of these things. Is that true or is there a way of stating that definitively or is that still in flux?

Matt Kiely: Well, you’re dealing with different types of offenders in our unit. You’re dealing with, as you mentioned, the pedophile who is probably the highest risk offender that we supervise.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Matt Kiely: Those offenders who have victims

Leonard Sipes: Well, it doesn’t strike me that the pedophiles may be involved in adult rape because his sexual disposition is towards children.

Matt Kiely: Correct and that’s what he focuses on. Then we have the offenders who are rapists and that’s all they’ve ever done is rape adults unknown to them. As you mentioned before, we have the exhibitionist, they are also at a high level to re-offend.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Matt Kiely: It’s a behavior that we see repeatedly. It’s not just one exposure. It’s multiple times, multiple places.

Leonard Sipes: And not to get too graphic about this, the sense here is that if you have a sexual predisposition and to me it doesn’t really matter what that sexual predisposition is, but if you have that predisposition, I’m assuming it is sort of like heterosexual disposition. I don’t think you’re gonna change your heterosexual predisposition. If you are predisposed towards children, I would imagine that’s pretty much a lifelong issue.

Matt Kiely: For some offenders yes and that’s what we hope in the course of treatment that by focusing on cognitive behavioral controls, i.e., where we’re trying to modify their behavior, modify their thoughts. Offenders recognize when they may be in a lapse so they avoid re-offending by recognizing their own cycle of abuses.

Leonard Sipes: Okay. But they recognize their own cycle of abuse from the standpoint that they really understand that it’s wrong and they’re not going to do it again or do they simply know how to control it?

Matt Kiely: I think it varies. Some offenders realize it’s wrong through the course of many months and particularly many years of treatment and I think other offenders are along for the ride.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Matt Kiely: Have no intention of changing.

Leonard Sipes: Which brings us right back to the topic of the program in terms of poligraphy/polygraph tests/lie detector tests.

Matt Kiely: Right.

Leonard Sipes: Now, lie detector tests are not, even though I titled the program lie detector tests for sex offenders, you explained to me at the beginning of the program that’s really a misnomer, that it’s not so much a lie detector test.

Matt Kiely: Right.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s the difficulty in terms of explaining this. But if I called the program poligraphy for sex offenders, nobody’s gonna understand what we’re talking about.

Matt Kiely: Right. No one’s gonna click on that.

Leonard Sipes: So I called it lie detector tests for sex offenders. What is the reality of these tests?

Matt Kiely: Well basically as noted earlier, it detects changes in one’s body. You’re not dealing with detection of lies, but you’re dealing with detection of indications of stress.

Leonard Sipes: Yeah. When I took lie detector tests when I was joining the police department, I took 2, one as a cadet and one before entering as a trooper. It was explained to me that you simply measure certain, I forget the word that they said, but physical responses to your questions. So in other words if I’m there and I’ve got these diodes or whatever the heck they are around my body and if my body gives off these impulses when you say Mr. Sipes have you ever committed a felony. Well then obviously I just had this huge reaction to that question so that leads the investigator to ask additional questions. Is that basically what we’re talking about?

Matt Kiely: Correct. Your body’s gonna react to something you know is incorrect. Similar story in researching this matter. You’re walking down the hall. You and me are walking down the hall having idle conversation. Someone reaches around the corner and fires a gun. Your body’s automatically gonna react.

Leonard Sipes: Right, your body’s gonna react. But lie detector tests are not used as admissible evidence in court correct? That is something that is a finding throughout the country. Do I have that right or wrong?

Matt Kiely: It’s actually incorrect. It is used in some jurisdictions.

Leonard Sipes: Really.

Matt Kiely: Both sides have to agree to it and both sides have to agree on the scientific reliability of it.

Leonard Sipes: Wow. But we do know that in general there are a lot of false positives regarding lie detector tests. To some degree?

Matt Kiely: To some degree certainly. That’s why it’s not on a wide scale approved in every courtroom in this country. Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And that’s simply because if somebody is polygraphing me and they’re basically saying Mr. Sipes have you ever broken the law. Everybody has broken the law at some point either by speeding or when you were 13 years old you took a candy bar or whatever. None of us lives perfectly clean lives. So I could have a response to that, a physiological response. That’s the word I was looking for. I could have a physiological response where I would jerk and move and my eyes would get big or whatever because I’m worried as to how to truthfully answer this question. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m lying. It’s simply means that I have a strong physiological or physical reaction to that question.

Matt Kiely: Right and one of the important parts of the polygraph is the pretest. During the pretest, the polygrapher will over an array of questions with the offender. They could deal with supervision conditions, could deal with your sexual history or could specifically deal with the, as they call the incident of offense, could deal with the offense of record. What the offender was convicted of.

Leonard Sipes: And there what we’re asking are very straightforward questions, what is the time of day, is your name John Doe, were you convicted for this offense. These are pretty much yes or no questions. Correct?

Matt Kiely: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And you setup that baseline.

Matt Kiely: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: And from that you can judge whether or not there’s a strong physiological reaction to the question that we ask.

Matt Kiely: Right. It will tell us in what areas that the offender is being deceptive and generally the contractors we use will run these reports, will forward their reports to us whether a deception was indicated or a deception was not indicated. If, in instances where deception is indicated, the polygrapher will confront the offender after the polygraph and say question number 1, question number two show signs of deception, do you have anything to say.

Leonard Sipes: Right. Is he still hooked up?

Matt Kiely: No. At that point, it’s basically a post test interview.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Matt Kiely: The “polygraph is done”.

Leonard Sipes: Okay.

Matt Kiely: It’s over.

Leonard Sipes: Alright.

Matt Kiely: With deception indicated or no deception indicated or in some cases inconclusive where the polygrapher could not get a good judge on the reading, which happens sometimes. But at that point the offender gets a chance to respond. For instance, if the polygrapher said there was deception regarding the number of minors, the polygrapher will kind of dig a little deeper as far as are you sure there were only two in history versus three or 4.

Leonard Sipes: Right.

Matt Kiely: And in many instances the offender will admit additional victims. Which basically validates the polygraph test indicating that’s the reason why the deception indicated because it wasn’t two, it turned out to be five or six.

Leonard Sipes: So Matt, how many different kinds of polygraph tests are we talking about.

Matt Kiely: Len, we usually have three. We have the instant offense history which addresses the offense of conviction in conjunction with the official version. We have the sexual history which looks at the entire sex offending behavior of the offender. Then we have the maintenance or the monitoring polygraph which is given to those offenders already on supervision and during the course of supervision to review issues concerning compliance with treatment, compliance with supervision and may adjust supervision controls on the offender should new information come to light.

Leonard Sipes: That’s a lot of polygraph tests.

Matt Kiely: Correct.

Leonard Sipes: Can somebody beat the polygraph test. Now that’s the question inevitably that somebody is going to be asking themselves as their listening to this program. They’re gonna say, I can beat that polygraph test or I’ve heard of people beating the polygraph test.

Matt Kiely: Right.

Leonard Sipes: Can a person beat a polygraph test?

Matt Kiely: Yes anybody can do anything they see fit. We did have one offender that discussed his concerns about the polygraph in the pretest. Admitted that he purchased the book on how to defeat the polygraph. And again that showed his intent was to try to defeat the polygraph. Whether he could have or could not is a different issue.

Leonard Sipes: But somebody told me and this is, I think the advantage that we have in terms of a parole and probation organization, is that it’s not a one shot deal. We polygraph, as you just said, we polygraph these individuals in a variety of different ways. We put them on GPS monitoring which is satellite monitoring. We, in some cases, will have people follow them after hours, at night, that sort of thing. We work with local law enforcement. They’re in a treatment process. We use a, I can never say it correctly, a pisme.

Matt Kiely: Plethysmograph.

Leonard Sipes: Plethysmograph, which is designed to focus on the offender’s arousal mechanisms when he sees certain stimuli. So there’s a whole mess of things that is basically going to tell us whether or not this person is telling the truth and whether or not this person is being honest with us. We don’t rely upon on particular thing. We rely upon a totality of technology to figure out whether or not this person’s a straight shooter. Am I right?

Matt Kiely: Yes. Like you said, we rely on a whole bunch of things. The offender’s autobiographies, you know investigative interviewing, contact with family in conjunction with GPS, surveillance

Leonard Sipes: And in conjunction with his own criminal history.

Matt Kiely: Right.

Leonard Sipes: So we have a pretty dag gone good idea as to who this sex offender is, who this person is as a human being through polygraph tests, through lie detector tests and through all the other technology that we employ because he could lie to us all that he wants. But if he’s hanging out at a school after work, that GPS device is gonna tell us that he’s there and we go back and we find out why he’s there. We can also go in and take a look at his hard drive on his computer correct and we can do that remotely. We can do that from our own offices. So that’s another piece of technology. But I think there was an example one time of an offender who went to a local library and we come to find out that’s where he was trying to log on to sexual related databases. So, there’s a wide variety of tools at our disposal to figure out, you know, whether or not this person’s a straight shooter. Whether or not this person is trying to do the right thing or whether or not he is just another criminal trying to re-offend.

Matt Kiely: Right. And that offender Len, years later gets released, comes back out in the community. This time has additional special conditions placed on his certificate. One of which he could not access the internet. We questioned him in connection with GPS; the CSO questioned him about his location in Maryland. The offender admitted he was visiting an uncle. The CSO followed up, spoke with the uncle, spoke with the niece. They had a computer. Found out it had internet access. They both stated that the offender was on the computer. We brought our IT department up there. Could not find any internet access activity, but we did find a letter in which the offender was writing an inmate which is another violation of his conditions which clearly stated that he was about to give up and run. He was tired of the GPS tag on his ankle and so forth. Eventually that evidence in conjunction with everything else supported revocation which the offender was sentenced to two more years in the institution.

Leonard Sipes: Good. Good for us. Anything else that I have forgotten because part of the discussion has been on sex offenders generically, part of it has been on the lie detector process. So I guess I should ask am I missing anything regarding lie detectors or the larger issue of supervising sex offenders.

Matt Kiely: No, we kind of covered it. It is probably one of the best tools we have and I can show you in another quick example. When an offender who had completed treatment, he had gone through two plus years. He was a pedophile so he was extremely high risk. But he had gone through the whole treatment and part of treatment after care is maintenance polygraphs every six month.

Leonard Sipes: Oh really.

Matt Kiely: So he’s referred back to treatment.

Leonard Sipes: We don’t give up do we?

MATT KIElY: No. We continue to work with them because we realize this is with some offenders, it’s a cycle.

Leonard Sipes: Yes. It’s a sexual predisposition.

Matt Kiely: Right and the offender was referred back to the treatment provider for a few meetings with the psychologist to go over a pre-polygraph interview and when questioned if he would be able to pass the polygraph, the offender hesitated and said I don’t know. And this is an offender who had previously passed his two previous polygraphs which is a big sign of a problem. He engaged the offender in conversation and we learned through the psychologist later on that basically the offender had communicated with a 17, 18 year old on the internet. That was that Thursday. That Monday we conducted a search at the offender’s apartment. Found 150 individual MySpace page photos, pornography. Found a photo of the offender in New York City which is a violation of his conditions. We wrote the violation report on a Wednesday; the commission issued a warrant on Thursday. The offender came into the office on a Friday for his regular visit and the warrant was executed.

Leonard Sipes: Sure. Sure. So I guess the lesson is that you can fool us every once in a while, but you’re not going to be able to fool us consistently.

Matt Kiely: Certainly.

Leonard Sipes: Matt Kiely, supervisory community supervision officer with the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, thank you, and ladies and gentlemen thank you for listening to D.C. Public Safety. Look at our website if you will,, for TV shows, other radio shows, and articles about our sex offender unit. Please have yourselves a very pleasant day.

(Audio Ends)

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