Mayor Article

Reno Mayor Griffin Calls for All Prisoners to Pass Drug Tests Prior to Release

By Ed Somers


Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin, Chair of the Criminal and Social Justice Committee of The U.S. Conference of Mayors, participated in a plenary discussion during the National Assembly on Drugs, Alcohol Abuse, and the Criminal Offender on Tuesday, November 7 in Washington, DC. The meeting was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and attended by hundreds of criminal justice practitioners and experts from across the nation.

During his remarks, Mayor Griffin expand on the Conference's call for a comprehensive strategy to attack the problem of drugs in the criminal justice system which includes:

  • increased efforts to keep drugs out of prisons and jails in the first place, with constant mandatory testing and monitoring of prisoners while in the system, including those on probation or parole;

  • increased provision of quality treatment in prisons and jails, and to persons on probation or parole; and

  • federal and state policies which require every prisoner to pass a drug test prior to release.

To start this initiative, the nation's mayors are calling on the federal government to require that every person leaving a federal prison pass a drug test.

In addition, the mayors are seeking a partnership with the states to ensure that every person leaving prison or jail for release back into the community pass a drug test.

As Mayor Griffin has stated, "what kind of message are we sending to our communities if we cannot, at a bare minimum, ensure that on the day of release, a person does not test positive for drug use.

Griffin added, "It is our hope that testing for drugs - which theoretically should not be available to prisoners - will not simply punish those that use while incarcerated, but rather help encourage addicted individuals to seek treatment, and increase the incentive for the managers of the criminal justice system to make quality treatment available."

Mayor Griffin's full statement can be found on the Conference's web site /uscm

McCaffrey Supports Greater Testing and Treatment

Addressing the same conference as Mayor Griffin, ONDCP Director Barry McCaffrey termed the current criminal justice system a "disaster" in that it puts tens of thousands of drug offenders behind bars without providing treatment.

McCaffrey called for an end to the current policy of simply incarcerating addicts.

"Our dominant approach of primarily incarcerating drug offenders has been a failed social policy," McCaffrey said. "Our goal is to encourage the expansion among federal, state and local jurisdictions of alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders."

As an alternative, McCaffrey recommended "treatment for drug-dependent offenders in all phases of the criminal justice system."

According to U.S. Justice Department figures, 500,000 offenders are released from state and community prisons each year without being treated for their addictions. Furthermore, between 65 percent and 70 percent of all untreated parolees with histories of cocaine and heroin use return to drugs within three months of their release from jail.

As for federal prisons, 26 out of 42 currently provide drug treatment programs. However, the federal government has not yet adopted the Conference supported policy of requiring a clean drug test prior to release.


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