Nashville outsources drug testing for offenders to private company
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
If you commit a crime in Davidson County, there's a good chance you will be drug tested. The county has started aggressively testing people who are on probation, sometimes as often as five times a month.
Defense attorneys worry it means people could get fired from their jobs, not for their small crime, but for leaving work to be drug tested.
Those on probation from general sessions court must call a number each day, and if their number comes up, they must drop everything, drive to downtown Nashville and urinate in a cup.
For some, it is accountability and good public policy while others say it is excessive and even cruel.
In the past, the county drug tested about 10 percent of those convicted in general sessions court, but now that number is up to 60 percent.
"How can you expect a person to leave work with no notice at all, come downtown from wherever they live - because we only test downtown - find parking, give a urine test and get back to work and not be fired? It makes no sense at all," said defense attorney Jim Todd.
But, for Bob Green, director of the probation department for the general sessions court, it makes a lot of sense.
Green says it is simply the right thing to do.
"Drug and alcohol abuse plays a significant role in an offender's life. Research shows anywhere between 40 and 80 percent of all crime is connected to drugs and alcohol," Green said.
The new drug testing is now run by a private company, where it costs $11 to get drug tested. That's actually cheaper than what the county charged, but there is still suspicion when a for-profit company makes money when it tests offenders.
"This particular setup is not a good idea, because it gives an incentive to a company to test," Todd said.
Green says he understands the suspicion but also wants to make it clear that he is in charge of how many times offenders are tested, not the company.
"If someone goes through several months of negative tests, we're going to start testing them a fewer number of times," he said.
This policy has been in place just three weeks, but there is already a key change coming in September, in which offenders will then have 36 hours to get downtown to take the urine test.
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