Herkimer and Oneida counties soon will subject sex offenders on probation to polygraph testing that officials say will enhance treatment and supervision of those individuals.
"Basically, it would entitle our department and our supervisors to hopefully address treatment concerns and show any red flags that we could address," said Herkimer County Probation Supervisor Garry Murphy.
New York state, he said, has recommended polygraph tests as part of probation or treatment. He said that in order for the department to continue to receive funding from the State Aid Plan and Block Grant — which funds individual programs within probation departments — polygraph tests must be administered.
"The state is really looking for a monitoring process, and this is another application for that," he said.
Herkimer County entered into an agreement with Northeast Polygraph Services in Ravena in accordance with the Sex Offender Registry Act and state legislation via a resolution passed by the county Legislature Jan. 29. Each test would cost $250, which would be paid by the offender unless he or she could prove they couldn't afford it. In those cases, the cost would fall back on the county's probation department.
Murphy said a representative from Northeast Polygraph would come to Herkimer County to administer the tests.
Though Murphy said plans have not been cemented about when Herkimer County would begin the testing, David Tomidy, director of Oneida County's Probation Department, said his office is expecting to begin them in March or April after putting the service up to bid.
Tomidy said the results of a polygraph test would not be used against a client in a court hearing.
- Yeah right! People also have the fifth amendment, the right to remain silent, which they should exercise, in our opinion.
"A lot of people continue to deny their issues. This could put an end to that," he said. "This would be strictly for treatment and supervision."
Murphy estimates there are between 40 and 50 sex offenders on probation in Herkimer County. Oneida County's numbers are closer to 75 or 80, he said.
Herkimer County Sheriff Christopher Farber said the frequency and timing of the tests would depend on the severity of the offender's risk level. For example, Farber said a Level 3 offender – the highest level of risk – might undergo polygraph testing once a year.
"Obviously, the higher risk offenders we would scrutinize more," Murphy said.
Farber, however, is wary about the tests.
"I'm not sure how much faith I have in the polygraph," he said, "just because I heard of cases that people have tricked it."