D.C. Jails Just Say No: Prison Staff Faces Stiff, Random Drug Testing

By Lacharite, Gretchen | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 30, 1996 | Go to article overview

D.C. Jails Just Say No: Prison Staff Faces Stiff, Random Drug Testing


Lacharite, Gretchen, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Workers in the D.C. Department of Corrections - from dishwashers up to the director of the agency - will be subject to a strict new alcohol and drug-testing policy that is the most comprehensive in the city.

Under the policy, unveiled yesterday by Corrections Director Margaret A. Moore, all 4,000 agency employees will be subject to testing when there is a "reasonable suspicion" that they are using alcohol on the job or illegal drugs.

Employees in "high potential risk" jobs, those that deal directly with inmates, will be subject to random testing at any time. Workers who test positive or who refuse to be tested will be fired.

"We cannot and will not tolerate employees who use illegal drugs," said Mrs. Moore, who announced the policy at the Correctional Treatment Facility at 1901 E Street SE.

"The mandatory employee drug and alcohol testing policy for the Department of Corrections is perhaps the most comprehensive policy of its kind in the entire government," she said. "It is a policy that recognizes that substance abuse by employees at any level of the agency threatens the security and orderly running of the entire system."

The new policy comes almost three years after two FBI stings netted 22 correctional officers, former and current, four inmates and one juvenile who were later charged with a range of offenses from drug distribution to bribery.

"Executive managers, [and] supervisors, including myself, will be tested," Mrs. Moore said. "Any employee testing positive for drugs or alcohol, who refuses to submit to urine or breathalyzer testing, who tampers with a specimen or who attempts to circumvent the testing process will be terminated, on an emergency basis, from employment."

The new policy was immediately criticized by the union representing corrections workers,the Fraternal Order of Police D.C. Department of Corrections Labor Committee.

"We have not been provided with information as to who will be conducting the testing and their qualifications to conduct such testing. We have not been provided information on the safeguarding and/or methods of the testing," said Sgt. Carlton Butler, acting chairman of the union. "One false positive is intolerable."

Employees are currently being notified of the new policy, which will go into effect once a contractor has been found. Mrs. Moore said she expects to award a one-year drug-testing contract within the next 30 to 45 days.

She said the program is expected to cost $75,000 a year and that, in a typical year, about 1,000 workers will be tested, or 25 percent of the department's workforce.

Until actual testing begins, employees with alcohol or drug problems are being encouraged to go to the department's employee assistance program for help.

They will not be fired if they go for help now. If they do not go for help now, though, and test positive later, they will be fired, Mrs. …

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