Faulty Drug Field Tests Can Both Lead to Incarceration and Make Incarceration Worse

by | Oct 14, 2021


In January of 2019, I wrote about how drug field tests that produce many false positive results are used as a basis for arresting and jailing people for drug crimes and have even been used as leverage to induce many people to plead guilty. But, that is not the entire problem with the tests. In addition to leading to people ending up in jails and prisons, false positive results of the faulty drug field tests are used in jails and prisons as a justification for enhancing restrictions on inmates.

Keri Blakinger provides in a Thursday article at NBC News details about how drug field tests with a proclivity for producing false positive results are used to make worse the lives of inmates who the tests wrongly indicate have violated drug prohibitions. For example, Blakinger writes about a lawsuit challenging the use in Massachusetts of drug field test results, including results from testing items sent to prisoners by their lawyers, to justify imposing restrictions on prisoners. Blakinger relates:

When the tests show false positives, Massachusetts prisoners get sent to solitary confinement for weeks or months, the lawsuit says. They lose their prison jobs, get kicked out of classes, and forfeit phone and visiting privileges until outside lab tests confirm the obvious: Dozens of defense lawyers have not suddenly begun sending their clients drugs.

Read Blakinger’s article here.


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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