Misuse of Drug Tests in New York State Prisons Resulted in Wrongful Discipline of Thousands of Incarcerated Individuals

A November report from the New York State Inspector General found that defects in both the manufacturing and administration of drug tests used by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to detect the presence of contraband in correctional facilities led to the wrongful disciplining of more than 2,000 incarcerated individuals across the State, Sile Moloney reports for Norwood News.

From 2016 to August 2020, as the opioid epidemic surged both nationally and in New York’s prisons, a test manufactured by Sirchie Finger Print Laboratories, called NARK II, was used in DOCCS facilities due to its unique ability to identify hard to detect drugs. In August of 2020, the inspector general’s office said that DOCCS notified the Inspector General that the NARK II test had inconsistent instructions, potentially causing false-positive test results. While the NARK II test is designed to serve merely as a presumptive test, producing preliminary results requiring laboratory confirmation, DOCCS used a positive result on an unconfirmed NARK II drug test as the basis for the imposition of discipline. DOCCS staff administering the tests also failed to follow protocols to prevent misidentification of contraband or cross-contamination of samples, undermining the accuracy of even the preliminary results.


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