Do Corrections Jobs Require a Polygraph?

Polygraph machines put your honesty to the test.

Polygraph machines put your honesty to the test.

Correctional officers put their own safety at risk and their lives on the line every day while working with violent criminals in jails, prisons and reformatories. They supervise prisoners serving time behind bars to keep the streets safer. In order to maintain a high level of integrity and professional conduct among employees, many prisons include polygraph examinations in the hiring process. If you've recently applied to become a correctional officer, you'll probably have to pass a polygraph to land the job.

How it Works

Polygraphs are computerized instruments that record physiological changes in your body. Also known as lie detectors, polygraph machines record spikes in your heart rate, muscle tension and sweat levels that indicate deception when answering questions. A polygraph examiner will monitor your answers and analyze the results to check for any potential lies. It's natural for people to feel stressed at the mere thought of taking a polygraph, so your heart might be racing and your palms might be sweating before you even sit down to take the test. To ensure accuracy, the examiner will ask you a few test questions to start out with so she can map out your base levels from the time you start the exam and she'll analyze the results from there.

Purpose

Corrections officers work one-on-one with all sorts of criminals, including drug dealers, thieves and murderers. Correctional facilities need to make sure that the people they pay to supervise these offenders are honest, responsible and reliable. Simply put, prisons don't want to have deceitful people on their payrolls. A polygraph exam gives them peace of mind that you can be trusted to carry out your duties.

Types of Questions

Polygraph tests typically cover crime-related topics, but you may also be asked to answer questions regarding your personal life. The examiner will more than likely ask you about drug use, theft and any other shady activities you may have engaged in in your past. You will be expected to answer all questions with a "yes" or "no," and should be honest the entire time even if you're answer isn't what you think the examiner wants to hear. Disclosing past indiscretions may not disqualify you from the hiring process, but getting caught lying about them more than likely will.

Accuracy

Polygraph examinations aren't fool-proof, but they are pretty accurate. According to Davis and Associates Polygraph, Inc, polygraph tests are between 90 percent and 95 percent accurate at detecting deception when administered properly. The level of accuracy is high enough that you should count on being caught if you choose to lie, so it's smart to remain honest throughout the test.

 

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