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Walden News // Aug 30, 2011

Contribution to the Profession Award: Closing the Gap in Research to Prevent Recidivism

August 2011Walden University’s 2011 Contribution to the Profession Award was presented to Dr. Roger Cook ’11, a PhD in Psychology graduate, for his dissertation, Predicting Recidivism of the Convicted Sexual Offender Using the Polygraph and the Static-99.

Childhood sexual abuse is an ongoing problem in the United States, where it is estimated that there are more than 11 million adult survivors of these crimes, according to a 2001 article published in the American Journal of Public Health. To reduce recidivism among offenders, law enforcement is using polygraph testing, particularly a 10-item objective measure known as the Static-99, which has been shown to significantly predict the likelihood of a relapse into criminal behavior.

In his dissertation research, Cook tested whether the information elicited from offenders on the sexual history polygraph examination (SHPE) could be used to predict recidivism better than the Static-99. He concluded that it did not predict recidivism any better, but found that some offenders did admit to having more victims if required to take the polygraph.

Ultimately, Cook identified significant issues that should be addressed when using the polygraph test. He found that:

  • Some convicted sex offenders who are mandated to undergo the polygraph process avoid it, resulting in noncompliance with treatment.
  • A significant number of offenders who reoffended violently did not undergo the polygraph process.
  • There is a significant correlation between undergoing the polygraph process in a timely manner and not reoffending.

School of Psychology faculty member Dr. Peter Anderson nominated Cook for the award because of the potential positive impact his dissertation could have on reducing recidivism. “This information may be useful in future policy development for those who treat and supervise the convicted sexual offender,” Anderson explains. “It could also foster informed decisions on how to treat and supervise convicted sexual offenders, which may ultimately reduce sexual assault recidivism and the overall incidence of this type of crime.”

About the Award
The Contribution to the Profession Award is presented annually to a graduating student whose program of study or research has made an important contribution to her or his profession. Students are nominated by Walden faculty members and staff.

Read more about the Contribution to the Profession Award and past recipients.