NY corrections officials temporarily stop drug testing at prisons

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 6:12 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2020 at 6:13 PM EDT
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DANNEMORA, N.Y. (WCAX) - Major Changes including the suspension of drug testing at New York state prisons have lawmakers concerned over the health and safety of both inmates and prison employees.

The New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision officials last month made the decision to stop drug testing, anything and anyone, inside state Prisons.

“From what I understand, there was possibly some issues with the tests,” said John Roberts with the New York Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.

DOCCS says it’s reviewing its current procedure and vendors for the testing of suspected contraband drugs and that it is working with the New York Inspector General’s office but it can’t comment further.

“I believe DOCCS just wanted to make sure that the drug testing that they were doing was as close as 100 percent perfect as possible to alleviate false positives,” Roberts said,

His Association points to the fentanyl scare at the Clinton Correctional Facility in January where what was believed to have been fentanyl was found in the prison’s mailroom and sent 11 prison staff to the hospital. The suspected powder was tested and later revealed it had no trace of fentanyl or any opioids but tested positive for synthetic cannabinoids.

Roberts said that drugs being mailed in -- synthetic or not -- can be dangerous, “You don’t know what’s in it," he said. “You don’t want to take something that they are entitled to have but also you don’t want to give something that may be drugs meant for them.”

Roberts says since visitation opened back up a few weeks ago, the number of times Narcan has been needed to reverse inmate overdoses is up. “We just really need to keep the drugs out of the prisons.”

That’s another reason why he says it’s urgent that DOCCS finds a new drug testing contractor,

“I don’t think we are asking for too much here," said Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Plattsburgh.

The association says they haven’t heard from DOCCS on a timeline of when this contract situation could be figured out but they hope that they see the importance of it.

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