State corrections officials relied on faulty drug test results to discipline more than 2,000 incarcerated people wrongly in New York, state inspectors found. The flawed drug testing program inside state prisons resulted in inmates being locked in solitary conferment and having family visitation suspended, the Democrat and Chronicle reports. Other discipline linked to the false positive drug tests led to delays in parole eligibility. As a result of the investigation, state officials expunged charges and modified guilty records for thousands of inmates, according to state Inspector General Lucy Lang. The state prison system overhauled its drug testing program due to the probe that investigated unjust discipline cases from 2016 to 2020. “Lack of integrity in the systems administered to New Yorkers behind bars implicates all of us,” Lang said. “This investigation and the subsequent policy changes and record expungements represent one step closer to ensuring the level of integrity we should all expect and demand from the State.”
As the opioid epidemic surged, state corrections officials used a drug test manufactured by Sirchie Finger Print Laboratories called NARK II. The test was designed to serve as a presumptive test, producing preliminary results that require a laboratory confirmation, inspectors found. While most other states using the kits took the added step of confirming test results with a lab, New York and one other unidentified state failed to follow that key recommendation. State prison workers in New York also improperly used the drug tests, inspectors noted. They found that prison workers “failed to abide by proper protocols to prevent misidentifying contraband or cross-contamination of samples.” Of the 3,112 disciplinary records that contained a drug charge, officials reversed and expunged 704 disciplinary charges. That included 232 people who had been released. Further, the state Board of Parole conducted new reviews for 271 incarcerated people using updated records that omitted drug violations associated with the faulty results.