Friday, July 03, 2009

Clean urinalysis results allegedly exchanged for bribes in Houston

I wrote last week that Texas has enough ongoing corruption cases to support a single-issue Texas Bribery Blog, and two recent examples provide a case in point. Somehow I missed the story about a "urine monitor" at the Harris County probation department who was "charged with bribery in May for allegedly taking $200 to submit a fake drug test form." As it turns out, though, it wasn't just a one-time deal. Investigators this week announced that an undercover sting caught another county employee allegedly doing the same thing in the pretrial services division, reports the Houston Chronicle ("Harris County urine monitor charged with bribery," July 2):

Prosecutors Thursday said they are seeking more possible victims after arresting a Harris County employee accused of taking bribes to provide clean urine to defendants out on bail.

Jorge Alfonso Campble, 45, was arrested Wednesday on charges of bribery and tampering with evidence after investigators set up a sting with marked money, video recording equipment and a 23-year-old defendant on bail for possession of marijuana, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Devine said.

He is the second county urine monitor to face bribery charges in connection with court-required urinalysis in two months. ...

In May, a urine monitor who worked for Harris County’s Community Supervision and Corrections Department for less than two months was charged with bribery after being accused of taking $200 to turn in a fraudulent drug test form.

The case against Thomas Edward Walker, 22, who was accused of falsifying a report instead of ensuring that the person’s urinalysis was performed correctly, are pending.

I've never been a big fan of urinalysis and other probation-style bail conditions, anyway, considering them a needless source of expense that promotes jail overcrowding without much resultant benefit in public safety. That's even more the case if the system is so riddled with corruption that positive urine tests are overlooked in exchange for bribes like they were Mexican traffic tickets. Then you have to begin to wonder, what's the point?

Two of these cases cropping up in different Harris County departments makes the matter even more worrisome; it means the problem apparently isn't localized, certainly not in just one department and perhaps not just in Houston. These functions are performed in a twilight land that typically receives little public scrutiny and it wouldn't surprise me to discover the same problem happening in other jurisdictions if anybody bothered to look.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well now hold on Grits, one of the studies you linked in an earlier post show that avoiding substance abuse is extremely important to successful reentry for offenders.

So is it really worth it to get rid of urinalysis? I don't know how much it costs, but I it would seem to be a targeted way to remove offenders with a high probability of re-offending.

Corruption can be cleared out with a good system of controls.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"is it really worth it to get rid of urinalysis?"

I think so specifically for UAs as a bail condition. Probation and parole are different animals where long-term reentry goals are more sensibly pursued. For defendants on bail, they've not actually been convicted of anything yet.

Anonymous said...

Grits,

Same in Bexar!!!! March 15th Treatment Associates ( Probation's Urinalysis Lab) fired two employees!!! Same thing but $20 only. Another Fitzgerald cover up....he got word in November but took no action. Another agency smoked the employees out. Fitzgerald needed to keep quiet about it because of his ongoing saga in the false positive cover up. Fitzgerald needs jail time!

Boyness said...

Is anything in Texas legit? Seriously, how you anyone believe in anything this state does?

Anonymous said...

Drug testing is a good tool to help assess those individuals accused of a crime (pretrial defendants) and those convicted of a crime (probationers and parolees) that may require substance abuse counseling and treatment services. It is sad that employees of a government agency - Harris County CSCD and Harris County Pretrial Services Agency - could be involved in "selling" negative drug screen results. It is actions like these that give all government employees a bad name and I hope the proverbial "book" is thrown at these individuals if they are indeed guilty. Hard to believe they are not guilty since they were "caught in a sting operation" of sorts. Regrettably, this is not the first time such has occurred at the Harris County Pretrial Services program....former staff have been discharged or "resigned" for actions that were certainly "questionable" if not illegal. A closer look at what is happening in Harris County by the local judiciary and the DA's Office needs to occur. The judiciary is responsible for oversight of these operations and if criminal acts are occurring then the DA should prosecute those involved and hold administrators responsible for their respective departments. A sad day for criminal justice professionals in Harris County. Time to clean up these "piss" poor operations.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:13 - using drug testing as "assessment" in pretrial services - once, while they're in custody - is much more justifiable. What I'm criticizing is the use of ongoing supervisory drug testing for Ds out on bail while they await trial. That seems to be mostly a Harris-specific fetish.

Your comments about oversight by the judiciary and the DA are spot on. The same could be said for Bexar.

Speaking of which, 10:58, was there any press coverage on the cases in Bexar? I'd love to confirm that if it's accurate.

aries said...

trace of drugs in the urine can only stay for a week, so using URINALYSIS
is not so accurate, better use hair in drug tracing

ramsmaiden said...

I have been effected personally with this type of treatement from a probation department due to a personal conflict of opinion with a counselor. I was a courtesy case from another county and have never tested positive during my 5 years of probation until transferring to this particular county. They have an attendent present when giving the specimin but would NOT allow me to watch them...in return I was positive for a drug I have never done.....I went home shocked took two tests of my own and both were negative.....so how would someone fight this one???? I am told there is NOTHING I can do.

Anonymous said...

I am a victim of the same type of action reversed. Courtesy case from Travis County for 5 years never tested positive in other counties, when transferred to the new county I moved to, I had a persoanl related conflict of opionon with the drug counselor there at the CSCD and when I was tested I was refused,(when requested),to be present during the testing. I was told I was positive for a drug I have never done.....I was told by my lawyer there was nothing I could do to fight it......the test was the only test that had not been tested in front of me AND the ONLY County I have ever tested positive in....I have NOTHING good to say about the TX ADULT CSCD DEPTARTMENTS.