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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