Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Should Texas drug test prison guards?

Should Texas drug test prison employees? Right now it doesn't, but most Texas prison guards support mandatory drug testing for themselves and co-workers, an informal survey found at The Back Gate:
Many say that even though they think it should be mandatory, those same people also know the results would cripple the agency. Some speculate that if all TDCJ employees were tested tomorrow, the agency could lose staff numbering in the thousands statewide.
Since TDCJ presently operates around 3,000 guards short and performs many guard duties with prison trustees, you can see why managers might hesitate to enact a policy that could cost them thousands more employees. But what a Catch-22! The agency already loses around 6,000 employees per year and has a big problem with employee crime.

What do you think? Should prison guards be drug tested or is it worth letting it slide to keep the prisons minimally staffed?

23 comments:

sunray's wench said...

YES!!! If we cant trust the people supposed to be looking after our loved ones to not have anything to do with drugs, then why not just let all the inmates back out onto the streets?

I'm sure there are only a very small minority of COs and higher staff who would fail the drug tests, but TDCJ would be safer for everyone in the long run without those few. Staff who are clean have nothing to fear from the tests themselves.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's a doozie. In general, I don't support drug testing at all. What people do in their own time is their business, I say.

On the other hand, when you consider how many inmates in Texas are locked up on drug charges, it does seem a little weird not to test the guards.

On the *other* other hand, where is going to end? How many people will we lock up before we run out of people to guard them? Or is this what's happening already...

Anonymous said...

SW, trust me, I don't think it's a "very small minority" doing drugs. I think we could lose a LOT of people if TDCJ drug tested tomorrow, a couple of thousand or more at least. Supervisors, too, not just COs. Then what? We're way too low on COs for that. Other than staffing prisons with the national guard, God knows how they'd run the place if you got rid of the pot smokers.

Anonymous said...

Guards should absolutely be tested for drugs.

Texas tuff on crime legislation is costing taxpayers huge amounts of money. Guards should be paid a decent wage and tested for drug use.

If the cost is high, perhaps the voters will reconsider tuff on crime and vote for crime prevention! Prevention costs a lot less and is better for society.

Roy said...

Before testing anyone, we should conduct a pilot study, testing the planned program on suitable people to see how workable it is in the long run. After about five years of frequent drug testing of all cops, guards, judges, and lawyers, we will be able to evaluate the program.

Don said...

Drug testing is pretty much a farce which should not be done at all on a generalized basis. It might be helpful in some specific instances, but it is fraught with potential unintended consequences, because it is unreliable, inaccuarate, and expensive, if done right, which it seldom is. This drug war hysteria is destroying us.

Anonymous said...

This drug war hysteria is destroying us.

And the significant numbers of people strung out on drugs is not? As a former substance abuse counselor, what is the answer to the meth epidemic plaguing us right now?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"As a former substance abuse counselor, what is the answer to the meth epidemic plaguing us right now?"

I'll take a stab at that: First, less than 1% of the population uses meth - that's hardly an epidemic, so we shouldn't overstate the problem. Meanwhile, surely you agree with your background that incarceration has done little to slow down the meth problem. Put an addict in prison and if you don't treat the addiction, when they get out most immediately begin using again.

However drug courts and treatment programs have been shown to work, as well as cognitive skills training. Texas is only now reinvesting in treatment after gutting virtually all TDCJ treatment funds in 2003, so currently the problem is only being addressed by heightened enforcement, not with an eye toward helping addicts recover and heal. IMO locking up addicts does little for public safety (with the caveat that if they commit other crimes, that's a different matter and they deserve arrest, but that's not most of them).

I tend to agree with Don that widespread testing is a bad idea, mostly for practical not ideological reasons. I can see testing in the wake of specific allegations, but it'd be too expensive and a huge hassle to routinely test everybody, and also risks the labor shortage consequences anon 11:33 feared.

And sunray, the only think "clean" staff have to fear are false positives, but those are pretty common. It's not an inconsequential concern.

And anon 11:28, you nailed it with this: "How many people will we lock up before we run out of people to guard them? Or is this what's happening already..." You're right. That's exactly what's happened. Best to all,

Don said...

To "as a former substance abuse counselor" I am still a substance abuse counselor. As a former substance abuse counselor you should know that drug testing has done nothing to address the problem. And in answer to the question you ask, the answer is no, the "significant" number of people strung out on drugs is not destroying us. As Grits answered, there is no "epidemic". After 20 years in the field, I am looking at things a little more realistically than I did when I first started, and I now question the party lines that support the drug war without any evidence.

whitsfoe said...

Well, if you think there's a problem with false positives, do you also think there is a problem with the reliability of technology in other tests as well, such as the breath test for innocent DWI casualties? After all, why do they make you blow 2-3 times? They're not getting the same reading every time? Duh? If that was so reliable, then why the different readings? I don't encourage anyone to submit to any of these unproven tactics.... the technology is just not reliable folks...

Anonymous said...

Drug testing is a form of communism. It would br great if we could "just say no" and tell others to do the same, but in reality people are going to do them anyway. Hasn't that been proven over time already? The war on drugs is about as successful as the war in Iraq. I say make them legal, tax the hell out of them in the same manner as alcohol and cigarettes are, then use the profits to pay the guards enough money to aspire towards a better life. People are going to do what they do, and besides, the worst drug in the world (alcohol) is already legal...so why not tax the rest?

Don said...

To Whitsfoe: No, the DWI breath tests are not reliable either. However, it is assumed by the court that they are, and you can't challenge the science as a defense. (See DUI Blog) Lawyers used to advise people to refuse breath tests, and many still do, but they can use that against you in court. In fact, you will get an ALR (Administative License Revocation) for simply refusing the test. You can't totally beat a DWI any way you cut it.

sunray's wench said...

Y'know, this is why I like Grits so much, you get input from all sides and that's rarely seen elsewhere.

I accept the case for false positives, and also that TDCJ is already way understaffed and would loose more if madatory drug testing was implemented, BUT this is about TRUST as much as illegal activity (which please remember folks, drug taking is, because to take it you first have to possess it). TDCJ staff are in positions of trust, most of you trust them to keep criminals away from society, and I have to trust them to keep my hubby safe, and myself safe while I visit him.

For those who say it is an invasion of privacy and what a man does in his own home is his own business, well consider this: using any substance can impare judgement. No one is suggesting that TDCJ staff use substances while at work, but if they use them at home, drive to work and cause an accident (by running into your car?) are you still going to say you didnt want to know becuase they did the deed in their own home?

There are enough double standards painfully evident in Texas, and making this issue a level playing field is a good thing, imo.

Anonymous said...

The problem seems to be not that of people using at home, then just working for TDCJ. Seems that these employees are the ones supllying the drugs to inmates on the units. If an employee can rely more on a an inmate, rather than another officer to help get a job done, we are gonna see more inmates doing TDCJ jobs. We are already seeing it. And it seems to be getting worse. When you are hiring people to work at TDCJ that are worse criminals than those that are confined there, we have a social issue here. Minimum wage is now what like, $7.50 ? Well, TDCJ employees start off making like $12.00 or so... what do you expect. Most walmart jobs pay better, and come with better background checks.

Anonymous said...

TDCJ has a policy for testing Correctional Officers (CO's). The problem is the upper level management's permissive attitude towards employee rule violations.

The root of the problem is TDCJ's hiring practices that began when Al Hughes and Andy Collins, assisted by Senator Whitmire and then Rep. Hightower, along with other "money makers for thine own self interest", built new prisons all over Texas.

Wardens and others strongly disagreed with the concept and voiced their concerns which included hiring of qualified staff. The Director of Personnel (now Human Resources) replied, "I have told my recruiters that if the applicants have a pulse hire them".

The rest, as they say, is history.

Retired 2004

policy0103 said...

1. Is it cost effective? Ask Texas Instruments--they spent millions on testing and produced very few users.

2. Is it a substitute for good supervision? A observant, hard working supervisor can spot problems long before the employee becomes difficult in the workplace.

3. Is the organization more effective and efficient with an intensive drug testing program. While a program may make management look good and appear socially responsible, what are the bottom line results--see 1 & 2.

JT Barrie said...

That's just plain stupid! Let's face it: your "best" employees are drug addicts. They have no life outside of a job that gives them enough money to pay for their habit. They alienate their friends and family first and foremost. They tend to be workaholics and gravitate towards overtime and advancement. Why would any sane employer in this consumeristic society NOT want to hire an addict? Yes, they do tend to want treatment on an occasional basis and some kind of life other than work. But they have shown that their motivation is external and they are easily manipulated by authority figures. They are team players unhindered by moral principles willing to do what needs to be done. Workaholism and drug addictions are kissing cousins. The question arises: do workaholics become drug addicts or do drug addicts become workaholics?

Anonymous said...

The irony of drug users guarding drug users that have been criminalized is just astounding to me.

This is just another example of the farce known as "War on Drugs".

This hypocrisy of TDCJ defies logic.

Speaking of private prisons, I found the following from Texas A&M Real Estate site interesting.

VICKERY LANE FACILITY SOLD
HOUSTON (CB Richard Ellis) – Corrections Corporation of America has purchased a 108,900-square-foot industrial and warehouse facility at 16038 Vickery Lane.

Anonymous said...

YES YES YES, EVERYONE ELSE GETS TESTED, WHY NOT THEM. YES! ESPECIALLY THERE AT TDC. DO IT!

Anonymous said...

I used to work for TDCJ and they did test us during the training academy but that was it. There was one person who failed the test and was fired. I think they should drug test from the guards all the way up the ladder to the Exec. Director. TDCJ will scrape the bottom of the barrel to get people to work for them. Alot of the people I worked with were using some type of drug which only lends itself to problems with staff bringing in drugs for the inmates and not being fully aware of what is going on around them which puts lives in danger. Will drug testing ever happen for TDCJ?? DOUBT IT!!!

Anonymous said...

Comparing TI to TDCJ is really a stretch! Look at the pay and benefits at TI as opposed to TDCJ! They are getting better applicants because they compensate better and treat their employees a heck of a lot better. When I worked for TI, there were 10 qualified applicants for every job opening. Not 10 applicants, 10 qualified applicants. We were very picky about who we hired for even the lowest level jobs. No wonder they found they did not have a drug problem!

grace said...

Agree!!also authorities need to be drug abuse test for our security,

Anonymous said...

I have been smoking pot for the past 8 years and have been with TDC for about 8 years as well. I think that what people do in there homes is private. It doesnt effect my work performance at all. If anything it helps me maintain my sanity, after 12 hours of dealing with grown children. How can you compare me to a robber, rapist, murderer, etc. If it aint broke dont fix it. Just because i smoke pot doesnt mean i'm gonna bring it into the Unit. Does everyone who smokes and drinks bring that into the Unit? I dont think soooooo.