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NE Prison Watchdog Raises Concerns Over Inmate Drug Tests

A Nebraska prison watchdog is raising concerns about the use of “field” drug tests to punish inmates,  including extending their time behind bars, without confirming such tests with an accredited lab. The Inspector General for Corrections said that such field “screening” tests, used for synthetic drugs such as K2, are clearly labeled as having limitations in terms of accuracy and should be confirmed, Nebraska Examiner reports. The lack of such confirmation testing, the IG report said, raises questions about “fairness” and increases chances that an inmate could be punished for a false positive test or that prison officials could miss contraband because of a false negative test. The Inspector General recommended that prison staff be educated about the limitations of field drug tests and that a process for providing confirmation lab tests be established, as is required by law already for urine drug tests that come back positive for drugs.


The penalties for a drug offense range from loss of “good time” reductions in sentences and removal from work release, to prisoners being confined to their cells or being transferred to a higher security prison. The Corrections Department said it would take the recommendations “under consideration.” State Corrections Director Rob Jeffreys said that blocking the flow of synthetic marijuana such as K2, as well as other drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine, into prisons presents a huge challenge, a comment also made by the IG. Drugs can be soaked into letters or infused into lotions to smuggle them in, and intoxicated inmates are often linked to violent incidents inside prison walls.

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