Random drug tests for Florida prison employees

By Lunar Loops · May 11, 2006 · ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    The following article appeared in the Santa Barbara News (I'm almost surprised this isn't already widespread in the backyard of the world's self appointed police force):

    Florida to randomly test corrections employees for drugs

    DAVID ROYSE, Associated Press Writer

    May 9, 2006 4:59 PM
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Department of Corrections will begin random testing of employees for illegal drugs, making it among the first states to do so, officials said Tuesday.
    The announcement follows a series of allegations of misconduct by high-ranking agency employees and guards, including a prison-based steroid peddling ring. At least nine people have been charged in that probe.
    The drug tests will be a ''bona fide effort to demonstrate the professionalism and capability of this department,'' said corrections Secretary Jim McDonough, who took over in February when James Crosby resigned.
    The department also announced that starting July 1 drug-sniffing dogs will conduct random workplace searches.
    McDonough said that he doesn't think there is a widespread drug problem among prison employees, but that the initiatives were part of an effort to boost confidence in the agency.
    Those who test positive would undergo treatment while keeping their jobs, said McDonough, former head of drug control policy for Gov. Jeb Bush. During treatment, they would be removed from any hazardous duties.
    An employee who tested positive a second time would probably be fired, he said. McDonough and 46 other department leaders took the drug test Monday.
    The department already can order tests for some illegal drugs when there is probable cause. A bill awaiting Bush's signature would allow tests for suspicion-based steroid testing.
    But the new policy allows for random testing with an oral swab of nearly any employee.
    The testing will cost the agency about $200,000 a year and will begin May 30, McDonough said. Besides steroids, the tests will screen for marijuana, cocaine, opiates and methamphetamine, among other drugs.
    Three unions representing prison workers support the plan. But another - the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - has not endorsed it and said leaders will meet with officials to discuss it.
    McDonough said he thought Florida would be among the first in the nation to implement such a plan.
    Brian Dawe, executive director a Corrections USA, a nonprofit advocacy group for corrections officers, said Florida is probably the first.
    ''And it's an absurd policy,'' he said. ''We don't check our constitutional rights when we punch the clock.''
    Besides the suspected steroid ring, some officers have been accused of sexual assault. There were also questions about prison contracts and hiring, including one employee believed hired only to help a prison softball team.

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  1. Lunar Loops
    Meanwhile on parole in Michegan....

    Tuesday, May 09, 2006
    Michigan cuts drug tests for felons
    Tight budget raises crime fears, means fewer get drug treatment, too.
    Ronald J. Hansen / The Detroit News

    Michigan's prison agency cut the number of drug tests for parolees more than 20 percent last year and is on schedule to test even fewer felons this year, raising concerns by those who monitor them that they could relapse and return to crime.
    In March, the state's Department of Corrections did away with mandatory testing for medium-risk parolees, replacing it with discretionary testing in a move to make better use of depaFrtment resources. Maximum-risk parolees now are the only ones tested on a regular basis.
    The state also has cut its budget for drug treatment of felons more than 60 percent in the last five years.
    Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the department, said agents now are focusing the state's resources on the parolees who appear most at risk of drug use.
    "We're trying to get smarter about the testing," Marlan said. Parole and probation agents have a good sense of warning signs of drug use, he said, pointing to positive test results that have climbed from 10 percent in 2004 to 13 percent now.
    Patrick Selepak, a parolee mistakenly left on the streets, offers perhaps the most dramatic example of what can happen when felons return to drugs.
    In court last week, Selepak's lawyers said he intends to plead guilty to killing three people during an alcohol- and cocaine-fueled rampage in February.
    While Selepak's friends and relatives say he frequently used drugs and booze while on parole, he passed scheduled drug tests.
    Frequent screening urged
    At least one drug testing expert and the union that represents parole and probation agents at the Department of Correctionssay frequent screening -- and guaranteed punishment for those who have used drugs -- is the best way to ensure felons stay clean.
    "I would not trust myself to know who is relapsing," said Douglas Marlow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania whose specialty is substance abuse among offenders. "I suppose you could say that at some point they will become so dysfunctional that any idiot can spot them. Budgeting issues are always a problem, but there is no clinical reason to test them less."
    Although the Selepak case was unusually extreme, drug use and other crimes are hardly unrelated.
    Marlan said 58 percent of those on supervised release in Michigan have a known drug problem.
    In 2000, the National Institute of Justice found that 70 percent of arrestees tested in Detroit were positive for drugs.
    More than a third of those who talked to officials about their drug use admitted they were addicted.
    Detroit's drug rates were higher than the national average for cocaine, marijuana and overall drug use, the federal study of 35 large cities found.
    Historically, about half of those paroled in Michigan return to prison within two years, usually for new crimes. That is in line with the U.S average for recidivism.
    State prison records show drug test spending has fallen from about $4.9 million in fiscal 2001 to about $1.9 million this year. The agency is on pace to conduct about 388,000 drug tests this year, down from about 433,000 in 2005.
    Marlan maintains the agency's testing policies are not driven by a shrinking budget.
    For example, Marlan said, the state renegotiated drug test costs downward, so the number of tests given and what they cost over a given period of time don't completely correspond.
    Still, the agency remains concerned about limiting costs. An internal memorandum that outlines the new testing rules reminds area managers to "ensure compliance with approved office drug testing budgets."
    Alan Kilar, the financial secretary for the union that represents probation and parole agents, said the testing cutbacks are not surprising for an agency that cannot quickly offer treatment services to all those with known drug problems.
    By making more testing discretionary, he said, the department is shifting responsibility for lapses to the agents.
    "The agents are frustrated by the fact that they are damned if they do and damned if they don't," he said.
    Academics, as well as corrections department agents, say that drug testing is a critical tool that helps identify offenders who may be back to more serious crime.
    Marlan said experienced agents will consider factors such as changes in appearance and whether a parolee or probationer has been fired from work in deciding whether to test for drug use.
    But Marlowe said felons need to be tested often and punished quickly for drug relapses.
    One of the reasons he and other experts support more tests is because many drugs quickly disappear from the body.
    Cocaine, heroin and OxyContin are undetectable four days after use.
    Alcohol passes through the body in less than two days, and chemical traces of marijuana can linger for weeks but usually disappear within three to five days.
    Testing called inadequate
    Still, Michigan, like many states, tests most of those on probation or parole less than once a week.
    Experts say this is likely to miss most drug use.
    The California Policy Research Center, operated by the state's university system, found that weekly testing of probationers had a 65 percent chance of missing drug use.
    Monthly testing had a 90 percent chance of missing drug use, the center reported. Their analysis urged more regular testing and a graduated penalty system that stressed certainty of sanctions.
    Michigan's prison agency spends the bulk of its anti-drug efforts on treatment and counseling, said Tom Combs, who manages Substance Abuse Services for the Corrections Department. Last year, for example, the agency spent $16.2 million on treatment, he said. This year, the state is budgeted to spend $300,000 less on treatment.
    Mark Kleiman, a professor specializing in drug markets and drug testing at the University of California-Los Angeles, said studies show that treatment at the expense of testing is an inefficient approach to curbing drug use.
    Kleiman argues that testing -- with sanctions for those who test positive -- costs about a third of the expense of treating someone. But monthly testing "does next to nothing" because of the low probability of catching drug use, he said.
  2. old hippie 56
    When swim was in the grips of the TCD(Texas Corrections Dept.), he was tested twice in ten years. PO said, as long as person works and pays the bills, he see no reason for testing.
  3. Bluetow
    Have done a search and this is the most relevabt thread.
    Does anyone know if they have random or compulsory tests in the UK Prison Service? Cheers
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