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Polygraph E-Book at Issue in Federal Civil Suit 36

George Maschke writes "The question of whether a patient in the state of Iowa's Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders (CCUSO) may read AntiPolygraph.org's free e-book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector, was at issue in a recently-decided federal civil suit (Willis v. Smith, et al.). The CCUSO relies heavily on polygraphs in its treatment program. The e-book in question provides relevant information that the directors of the CCUSO don't want patients to know. See, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector at Issue in Federal Civil Suit."
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Polygraph E-Book at Issue in Federal Civil Suit

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  • From the forum post:

    "It seems clear that Smith and Steflik are concerned not so much with the well-being of the patients entrusted to their care as they are with protecting themselves from being held accountable by those patients for their ill-founded practice of making key decisions about treatment based on such junk science as the polygraph."

    Suuure, theres no bias in this at all.

    Lots of sensationalism though.

    • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @03:26PM (#11957160) Journal

      Biased, perhaps, but only in the sense that a textbook that presents the facts is "biased" towards the truth. "Lie detectors" as about as reliable as phrenology or handwriting analysis--e.g. not at all.

      --MarkusQ

      • The facts are that such tests do not actually work? Then why is this slashdot article even here, if the answer is so conclusive?

        In truth, lie detectors are based on recordable behaviors of humans when exposed to stimulus, namely the sweating or increased breathing. Psycholgists love to talk about that, it's an observable phenomenon.

        The problem with "lie detector" tests comes when the result is inconclusive. Does this indicate a lie, or the truth? Neither.

        Really, lie detectors shouldn't be a front lin
        • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @04:01PM (#11957614) Journal

          In truth, lie detectors are based on recordable behaviors of humans when exposed to stimulus, namely the sweating or increased breathing. Psycholgists love to talk about that, it's an observable phenomenon.

          The problem with "lie detector" tests comes when the result is inconclusive. Does this indicate a lie, or the truth? Neither.

          No, the problem is that eating chilli can cause the same symptoms, as can the posibility of sex or failure of an air conditioner. Just because fire trucks have the "recordable behaviour" of showing up at fires, we can not conclude that the fire station is perpetually in flames.

          --MarkusQ

          • by Anonymous Coward
            The problem is even worse than that. They establish a "baseline" by asking a series of questions that everybody will lie about. So they're using crock deviations from a crock standard to make their conclusions.

            There was something on TV recently where they pitted an expert with a polygraph against a Psychic, an ex-CIA interrogator and a facial recognition program. The professional interrogator won with about 90% accuracy, the software was second and the polygraph and psychic were essentially tied at right
            • The professional interrogator won with about 90% accuracy...

              Well sure. They didn't hook the polygraph electrodes to their balls. I'm pretty sure that a professional interrogator(Torturer might be more appropriate) will always be more likely to extract the tooth(and nails)...I mean truth from their victims.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          The problem with "lie detector" tests comes when the result is inconclusive.
          No, the problem with lie detector tests is that the results are always inconclusive. This doesn't mean that they can't be useful, just that you can never rely on them being conclusive in and of themselves.
  • depends... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bluGill ( 862 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @02:49PM (#11956695)

    It isn't clear what the exact situation is. If for some reason he is here, but not convicted of a crime (I can't figure out what such a reason would be, but the article isn't clear), then they don't have any right to restrict his reading. However they can also refuse to guarantee results if he does read such a thing. For the rest of this post I'm going to assume he has been convicted of a crime.

    In this situation they have rights to restrict any reading material that might allow him to cheat treatment. He is a criminal. He has prooven himself unable to handle freedom, therefore we need to restrict his freedoms until he learns how to deal with the responsibilities freedom provides.

    Many people complain (rightly so) that jails do not treat criminals, they just pull them off the street for a while. Iowa is attempting treatment, using the best we have. Polygraphs are easy enough to cheat when you don't know how, books that teach you how can quickly make them completely worthless. Unfortunately things like polygraphs are one of the few things we have to use in treatment. I would expect that those using them understand the limitations, but that is a reason to not use them.

    • Re:depends... (Score:3, Informative)

      The state of Iowa civilly committed the plaintiff in this case to a mental institution based on the argument that he is a "sexual predator" and a danger to society. He had previously been incarcerated for a sex crime, but he completed his sentence. So he is not now supposed to be being punished for his crime, but rather receiving treatment for a putative mental disorder.

      For further information than is provided in the article, see the court's 35-page ruling (also linked in the article):

      http://antipolygra [antipolygraph.org]

    • A system which is not reliable whether you know how to cheat the system or not is simply unreliable. You do understand that polygraphs have as many false positives as negatives right?

      Polygraphs are about as scientific as calling in Madam Vagooma and asking her to read the patient's palm to see if he will persue deviant behavior again.

      "Iowa is attempting treatment, using the best we have."

      Then Iowa needs to update its treatment a bit. Polygraphs have been known to be bunk for over a decade.
  • *sigh* (Score:1, Interesting)

    by kunwon1 ( 795332 )
    Yet another example of how inmates forfeit nearly all of their civil rights. Isn't it bizarre that a man who was convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering a 12-year-old girl [billoreilly.com] (You'll have to scroll down) can post personal ads online, but these inmates are forbidden from reading an eBook?
    • Re:*sigh* (Score:3, Informative)

      by shaitand ( 626655 )
      He is not an inmate. He did his crime AND he served his time. In this case Iowa very loosely skirted double jeopardy by persuing civil action against him after he was released.

      The civil case got him ordered to treatment, so he is not a convict or serving time for criminal acts, he is being forced to seek treatment because he is messed up in the head.
      • Re:*sigh* (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gstoddart ( 321705 )

        The civil case got him ordered to treatment, so he is not a convict or serving time for criminal acts, he is being forced to seek treatment because he is messed up in the head.

        Or, at least the people who are in charge of holding him use the lie-detector to assert so.

        The book he was being sent refuted the validity of the lie-detector test.

        The facility administrators basically said: it is more important for patients to believe the polygraph is valid then [sic] for the test actually to be valid.

        Basically

      • Re:*sigh* (Score:2, Insightful)

        by DavidTC ( 10147 )
        Yeah, this is crap.

        Some people are dangers to themselves or others, and I'm all for them being put somewhere they can be watched. Hopefully they come in by themselves, sometimes we need to pull them off the street ourselves. This man is apparently one of those people. (Whether or not he actually is is another debate, but we have no basis to challenge it.)

        But those people are not criminals. They have whatever rights they would normally have, with the sole exception of not being allowed to wander around fre

  • by general_re ( 8883 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @03:03PM (#11956884) Homepage
    Well, I guess I'd better follow this, in case I'm ever incarcerated. For sex offenses. In Iowa.

    I would have thought the audience for this was probably pretty narrow, but then I guess I don't really know that much about /.'ers after all.

    • If they apply it to this guy, what keeps the government from trying to keep YOU from reading the Anarchists Cookbook (Which is crap, BTW) or some other non-Bible ebook?
      • Well, the fact that I'm not involuntarily incarcerated seems to be a pretty major difference between his situation and mine.

        Seriously, I don't see quite what the fuss is about - prisoners, by their nature, have fewer rights than the rest of us. Your mail is opened, your phone conversations are recorded - you basically have no privacy whatsoever - and any materials that your keepers deem unsuitable are and always have been off-limits. It's a facility for holding and treating convicted sex offenders, not

        • The plaintiff in this case is not in prison (although he once was). He served his sentence. He is now involuntarily committed to a mental institution.
          • I see that, but it doesn't change anything - he still has, as a felon and involuntary resident, fewer rights than the rest of us.

            At first glance, the court looks like it split the difference, but this is very much a pro-defendant ruling - they have more or less a free hand to determine what material is theraputically appropriate for their patients, and so the judge ordered them to give him the book, sans the portions that they deem unfit. Which still leaves the door wide open for the next book to be, in

            • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @03:47PM (#11957436) Journal
              "I see that, but it doesn't change anything - he still has, as a felon and involuntary resident, fewer rights than the rest of us."

              Last I checked once you serve your time for a crime you no longer have less rights than the rest of us (unless you were released early under the condition you agree to have less).

              As an involuntary resident he has the same rights you would have if you were elderly and your children felt you were senile and had you committed. People are involuntarily committed when they are believed to be a danger to themselves OR others; being convicted of a crime is not a requirement.

              If the treatment center has the right to use something akin to palm reading in their treatment AND to stop their paitients from finding out why it is akin to palm reading, that applies to EVERYONE committed there; not just ex-cons.
              • by wolf- ( 54587 )
                Last I checked once you serve your time for a crime you no longer have less rights than the rest of us (unless you were released early under the condition you agree to have less).

                Might I suggest you "look" some more then.

                Voting "Rights":
                * Only two New England states--Maine and Vermont--allow all felons to vote.
                * Twenty-eight states prohibit felons who are on probation from voting.
                * Thirty-two states prohibit felons who are on parole from voting.
                * The states that prohibit felons who have served their c

                • "Last I checked once you serve your time for a crime you no longer have less rights than the rest of us (unless you were released early under the condition you agree to have less).

                  Might I suggest you "look" some more then.

                  Voting "Rights":
                  * Only two New England states--Maine and Vermont--allow all felons to vote.
                  * Twenty-eight states prohibit felons who are on probation from voting.
                  * Thirty-two states prohibit felons who are on parole from voting.
                  * The states that prohibit felons who have served their comp
    • The man is not a prisoner. He was convicted and served his term and then was released.

      Iowa persued him again when he got out saying he was messed up in the head and now has him treated involuntarily for a mental disorder.

      The issue raised here would apply to your teenage daughter if she overdosed on pills and the doctors involuntarily commited her as a danger to herself.
  • I want to send him a book on placebos.

    One ticket please. Aisle seat.
  • by St. Arbirix ( 218306 ) <matthew.townsend@gma i l . com> on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @03:40PM (#11957335) Homepage Journal
    Polygraph administrator: Have you read "The Lie Behind the Lie Detector"?

    Subject: No.

    Polygraph administrator: Crap.
  • YRO issue? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WarPresident ( 754535 ) on Wednesday March 16, 2005 @03:44PM (#11957398) Homepage Journal
    If the person is incarcerated, I don't see it as a violation of their rights. The real issue here is the "therapy".

    The use of a lie detector to verify the veracity of a subject's responses has been proven, time and again, to produce false positives and false negatives in abundance. Also, there are simple tricks that can be used to "game" a lie detector. The administrator of the test can "game" the lie detector as well.

    Let's put this in a different perspective. I were an Iowan (Iowite?), I'd be worried about a supposedly "cured" sex offender coming to live in my neighborhood. It's one thing to have the sex offender believe in the Tooth Fairy (Lie Detector), but it's insane for a sex offender's treatment/release to be based on what that Tooth Fairy says about the sex offender.
  • I always thought it would be fun to get a list of employees at the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc. and send a hardcopy of "The Lie Behind the Lie Detector" to a large number of them. Then their next annual polygraph test might be fun...
    • Examiner: So Johnson, do you have anything you'd like to tell us before we begin?
    • Employee: Well, er, I got this package in the mail...
    • Examiner: And? (starts to take notes, fiddles with knobs on polygraph)
    • Employee: ...and it contained a copy of this book you see...
    • Examiner: (eyebrows raise) Go on.
    • Employee: Well, it had the title like "The lie behind the lie detector" or something.
    • Examiner: (shit! Fourth one today!) Did you read it?
    • Employee: Uh, no.
    • Examiner: But how can we believe you now , since if you did read it you would know how to beat the machine? You could simply lie to us and tell us you didn't read the book.
    • Employee: I guess you'll just have to believe me.
    • Examiner: But if we believed you in the first place, we wouldn't have had to test you with the polygraph, now would we?
    • Employee: Er, um...
    • Examiner: So logically, we have to fire you.
    • Employee: What?!? How can you fire me for simply getting a book in the mail from some nut on the internet?
    • Examiner: I feel for you Johnson, but them's the breaks. My hands are tied. Better luck next time.
  • BURN ALL E-BOOKS, now that I got your attention, please remember that e-books are meant to take away the traditional freedoms that you have with a paper book (lend, photocopy, read twice, take out at your local library). Use with caution.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong

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