Section 5: Supervision
Considering the Use of the Polygraph as a Supervision Tool
As discussed in the assessment and treatment sections, both supervision officers and treatment providers in some jurisdictions have begun to utilize the polygraph as one component of an overall juvenile sex offender management strategy, primarily to facilitate disclosure of sexual histories and to assess compliance with supervision and treatment.41
Most relevant to the supervision process, two types of polygraph examinations are used: the single/specific issue examination and the monitoring/maintenance examination. The single issue examination may be required by supervision officers when concerns about specific high risk behaviors arise during the course of supervision. For more general and periodic assessments of compliance with supervision conditions and expectations, the monitoring or maintenance polygraph examination may be conducted. Risk factors such as victim access, use of pornography, and masturbation to deviant or inappropriate fantasies are often the focus of maintenance or monitoring exams.
It is important to emphasize that the polygraph is not a magic bullet for supervision officers. Indeed, as discussed previously during this training, it is not without limitations or controversies. Specifically, because of the potential impact of age, functioning, development, maturity, and co–occurring behavioral health concerns on the reliability and validity of the polygraph, significant questions exist regarding its use with juvenile sex offenders.42
Despite these questions, however, its use to enhance supervision practices with youthful sex offenders is increasing nationwide.43 To try to minimize the potential concerns that may arise, some experts suggest that polygraph examinations should be restricted to older juveniles (generally 14 years of age or older) who are emotionally stable, and that it should only be used with the informed consent of the juvenile, parent/caregiver, and referral source.44 And all stakeholders should be fully aware of the limitations, caveats, and potential risks associated with its use in the context of supervision before making decisions about its implementation.
Perhaps most importantly, key decisions should never be made based solely on the results of a polygraph examination.45 The polygraph, like all other management tools that have been discussed during this training, can be a valuable data source that can inform efforts to supervise these youth, but it cannot provide all of the information that we need to do our work effectively.
Responding to Supervision Non–Compliance
Thus far, we’ve reviewed ways in which supervision plans can be designed and strategies can be implemented in a manner that hopefully increases the chances that youth will do well in the community. Inevitably, however, there will be instances when youth are resistant to interventions, are not engaged or internally motivated to change, or experience circumstances that impact their ability to maintain stability in the community. These and other factors may result in their failure to comply with expectations or conditions of supervision. In addition, in light of some of our discussions about the nature of adolescence, we probably shouldn’t be surprised that some degree of rebelliousness and impulsivity with arise, even with some of the most compliant youth. After all, juveniles are juveniles!
So when a youth doesn’t adhere to a supervision plan, or violates a condition of supervision, what should be done? What are some specific examples of how you respond to non–compliance with juvenile sex offenders?
(ALLOW FOR AUDIENCE RESPONSES.)
The answer, of course, is that “it depends.” Certainly, “locking up” a juvenile sex offender should not be the first–line response for every concern that arises. When thinking about how to respond to a violation, it is important to remember the success focus that we talked about earlier—and that one of the goals of supervision efforts should be to provide these youth with an opportunity to disclose concerns or problem behaviors voluntarily, develop and practice appropriate coping skills, modify their inappropriate behaviors, and maintain their placement in the community.
It could be that increased levels of supervision or some adjustments to supervision strategies will be sufficient. Or it could be that certain issues are best addressed within the context of treatment. And of course, there are times (like repeated non–compliance, very high risk activities, and new criminal behavior) when immediately removing a juvenile from the community and revoking probation or parole is absolutely necessary. Generally speaking, responses to violations should be flexible, gradual, and incremental. Some key issues to consider include the following:46
- The seriousness of the behavior;
- The juvenile’s risk level;
- The degree to which community safety was jeopardized;
- Whether the juvenile voluntarily disclosed the behavior or maintained secrecy;
- The level of responsibility assumed by the youth;
- The awareness and disclosure of the behavior by parents, caregivers, and other members of the support network;
- The ability and willingness of parents/caregivers to provide adequate support and structure; and
- The presence of other assets or services to assist the offender in maintaining compliance.